Crying out… and some updates and gratitude

As many of my readers already know I have moved back home for my final semester for student teaching. Along with that I have also been working at my local ski area teaching ski school. Now before I go into my story and main point, I just want to share a simple gratitude. 

My biggest fear about moving back home was losing the awesome faith community, but God has provided. I still haven’t found that community of people my age, but my family has been so helpful. Every night my family and I have been reading the bible with Father Mike Schmitz podcast. That alone has been a game changer. Not only that, but on my way to school I pass right by Creighton’s chapel. Since it’s right along the way I stop there every morning for an hour before school. Even though I have to get up at the crack of dawn to get there and I struggle to stay awake, I am so happy to be there. I was concerned that I would start to fall backwards since I wasn’t living right next door to Newman and living amongst future saints. Yet here I am, the Lord has truly provided and I am so grateful.

Anyways moving on to what I really wanted to talk about. All week I have really been meditating on themes of family, love, father wounds, brokenness, etc. It didn’t all come together and connect though until today when God spoke through the hug of a 4 year old girl. After staying up till 2 am putting ski boots away last night, I was not super excited to drive out this morning. Upon arriving I was told I was going to be working with the little shredders. Little shredders are the 4-6 year old skiers and boarders. Little ones are cute and all, but there’s a reason I want to be a high school teacher haha. It honestly was not all that bad, I was just tired. Anyways I end up with this one girl in the group who is clinging to her mom and sobbing. Eventually I got her to let go of mom and come with me. She cried the whole 20 minutes I was with her, but yet it was such a spirit filled moment for me. Literally there’s a 4 year old crying, I’m exhausted, kids are falling over as they try to balance on their skis, yet that moment resounded with God’s voice and complete and total peace. Here’s why. This 4 year old girl would just be laying on the ground for several minutes, then standing for a brief moment while I moved her feet into position just so she could ski two feet before diving back in my arms screaming “I just want a hug”. It was that scream over and over of “I just want a hug”, and then having that girl come dive towards me and give this deep and sincere hug as if her only relief was to held tightly in my arms. This happened three times by the end of the lesson, and everytime she laid her tired little head upon my shoulder I thought, is this not the most honest vulnerable cry that the whole world is screaming. Does not our every day work, relationships, and existence cry out to be loved? Is that not what we were made for?

Since the beginning of time Satan has whispered lies to convince us that God does not love us. Look at Eve in the garden. The serpent did not try to convince her that God was not real. No, he worked to convince her that God did not love her. He was clever, he knew if he could convince them that they were unloved, he could strip them of everything else. And alas they knew they were naked and they hid from God in shame. Now I really want to wrap my thoughts up on this one, and put this big conclusion, but I want to leave this door open. Because there are a thousand ways I conclude this, and I could go on to explain the common patterns of brokenness and sins in the world, but you already know that. Instead I want you to think about that four year old girl crying out to be hugged by someone she just met. That cry is the cry of the whole world and even your own soul? People are longing for the love of God the Father and they don’t even know it. They don’t need you to save them or solve their life problems, these people simply just want to be loved. What are you going to do about it? 

I have this feeling that this cry for love is going to be a theme for this year, not that it wasn’t there before. Maybe it’s because it’s the year of Saint Joseph and this world is so full of father wounds and abandonment. Or maybe it’s because I am headed into a year full of people who I have yet to meet whom I will be spending a majority of my time with (between NY and student teaching) that everyday I will have the privilege of being able to love. Either way I’m here for it. 

Lastly I just want to take a moment to thank you for reading these. Two years ago at this time I started writing my book that I recently published (“Where Are You Going?”), and this time last year I wrote my first blog, now here we are. I honestly thought I would not publish that book or continue my blog this long, but I did it. I came so close to ending my subscription which would have permanently deleted my blog back in December, but after encouragement from many of you guys I decided to continue. I was reminded why I do what I do, and thought if it so much as leads one single soul closer to God it’s worth it. I am also very excited to share my journey of student teaching, and then moving half way across the country with all of you this year. From the bottom of my heart thank you. I love y’all so much. 

The Straw in the Manger

My family whom I love dearly is far from perfect. And even on Christmas night, sometimes we just fall. Sometimes my pride says, “Oh Mikayla are you really so weak that you still fight with your family” or “Seriously aren’t you beyond this”. But the reality is I’m human. So on Christmas night when my mom makes us go to midnight mass, and it’s way past everyone’s bedtime we become so desperate for His grace. We all scuffle into the pew, glaring at each other, and getting annoyed at any little gesture or sound another makes. Internally we all beg Jesus for the grace to not fall asleep or explode from irritability. As I share this I’m tempted to hide it in fear that I’m the only one whose experienced this. Yet I know that’s highly unlikely. It feels like it happens every year, where after all the Christmas hustle an bustle we end up exhausted and irritated, but eager to receive Jesus as we sit in the pew looking rather cross and weary. I would love to jump to the happy conclusion I have come to as I meditated on what I thought was one of the most unholy dignified moments of my life, but there’s an interesting story as to how I got there.

After we got home from mass, argued some more, said our apologies and finished our last minute wrappings I went to bed. But at 3:00 am I was awakened by the sounds of my sister whimpering outside my door. “What’s the problem Megan?” I said. “Ruby is dying” She sobbed.

Ruby was our rabbit that was 8 years old and had outlived all our other rabbits by miles. Ruby was very special to us. We had shown her at rabbit shows, taken her to school whenever she had babies, and I mean she was pretty cute. Knowing there was nothing that could be done I sent Megan up stairs to hold the poor thing until she passed. I was almost asleep, but thought it’s Christmas I shouldn’t make Megan sit up there by herself. I got out of bed, and my little dog Sophie followed. Now Sophie is a snob. She barks when people argue, controls our other dog, and when it comes to the rabbits she pushes them around and wants them to be her babies. With this in mind you can conclude Ruby and Sophie do not get along. In fact I many videos of Ruby snapping at Sophie or getting distraught because Sophie is trying to take her babies. Yet in Ruby’s last moments you would have thought they had been best friends all along. Now I know some of you might not care for sentimental animal feels, or wanna jump in and theologically explain to me how pets don’t go to Heaven, but that not the point, Just listen to the story, and maybe you’ll  learn something like I did. Sophie peered over the couch where Ruby lay across Megan’s lap. She jumped up smelled her, let out a little whimper then curled up next to her. Sophie remained there for the next 6 hours guarding her from the other dog, and just resting beside her. She did not poke at her, or press her nose against her over and over like she normally does. She just laid there. She didn’t even try to open up the Christmas presents, like she normally would when left unsupervised. Sophie has been there when other pets were dying and she would lick them or nudge them as if she could not accept the fact they were dying.This time was different, she just laid there vigilantly. She was just simply present, and is presence not one the greatest gifts of our time.

It was in reflecting on this that Christ reminded me what a family is for. Family is a school of love. Family is the bond that endures our greatest tribulations. Family is made up of the people who know how to bring you to your wits end, but also know how to love you like no other when the walls come caving in. If a dog by its nature and instinct can bring comfort to a dying rabbit, why can’t I through my free will chose to set aside my wants and needs and love my family to the best of my ability, even if that means falling into desperate need of God’s Mercy. I realized I have let my pride build up shame for needing God’s mercy. I have set myself up for failure thinking if my family can walk in like the Brady bunch into midnight mass, then we will finally reach holiness. But is holiness not found in the ones who suffer and endure the most? I mean were the shepherds not tired and exhausted, when they came to adore our Lord on that starry night. Was Mary not exhausted as she welcomed company to adore the Word Made Flesh? Could Joseph have let his mind exhaust itself fretting over the fact that the best place he could find for his wife to give birth to the son of God was a stable? Yes. Yet despite their exhaustion, concerns and cares, they set it all aside to adore the Lord. The circumstances do not have to be ideal, nor our mindsets and persona perfect. We just need to be there and be present. Like the little drummer boy, just give Him your best. No family is perfect, but one striving for holiness looks to love one another even if, not only if. Stop giving care for what the people in the pew behind you might be thinking. Focus on the one you came for, Jesus. Perhaps thank him that your family still has the faith and goes to mass with you (because not everyone reading this has a family who does). And instead of being upset with your families imperfections, embrace them. When your sister pushes you past your breaking point, turn the other cheek. If you fail to do that then turn to Christ who came to Earth to save sinners like us, with His abundant love and mercy.

If you come to him with an arms load of expectations for your family, you miss out on bringing Him the gift he wants the most. What is that you may ask? Love for your family. Love them as he has loved you. And when you find yourself exhausted and clueless turn to the example of the Holy family. The family who suffered greatly, lived as refugees in a foreign country, and lived every day knowing their Son would be everything Simeon had prophesied.They knew He was going to make many rise, yet others would fall, and He would cause great division. And through it all they chose love. Let them intercede for you and your family. And at the end of the day, forgive yourself. No matter how big of a conversion you go through, you will still face trials and tribulations. I can’t recall which saint it was, but on her death bed she laughed saying, “Even in death I am still in need of His mercy” after she made an impatient comment to her sister. Besides being patient and forgiving with yourself as you learn to love your family, pray for the grace to love them even if. I have fallen so many times into the excuse and desperate prayer of Lord if you would just change their heart you coil spare me the pain. It hit me hard like a load of bricks when one day Jesus looked at me, and said “Why have you never asked for the grace to love them the way that they are?” Yeah, chew on that jerky. Just like each member of the Holy family was called to be there to love and support one another, so are you also called to love your family just as they are.

Thank you for enduring that wild loop around. Also a special greetings to all my regular readers in China! And Merry Christmas to you all. And with that I’ll close with some wise words from Mother Teresa “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

It is you

Today’s Gospel was about Joseph receiving a message from an angel in his sleep that he was to take Mary as his wife, and serve as a father to the child who would be called Emmanual. The reason I bring this up is to highlight the message that the Lord is also speaking to you. Those simple words, “It is you”. 

Joseph being a righteous man most likely believed Mary, that indeed she was pregnant with the son of God. What Joseph more likely struggled with was knowing that God indeed was calling him to raise up His only begotten son. This is probably why Joseph almost walked away, but the Lord called him by name. Affirming in him that “it is you”. It is you whom I have called.

I think we can all relate to St. Joseph in this moment, but so few people are willing to surrender and listen as St. Joseph did. Notice how Joseph was asleep when this message was spoken to him. This is significant. Him being asleep signifies Joseph being willing to lay himself down before the Lord and let him speak to his troubled heart. Joseph did not stay awake trying to find the solution himself, rather he freely went to sleep. This act of surrender to total unity with God is how we find peace in the choices that we discern. We were not made for restlessness and anxieties, we were made for peace.

God wishes to grant us peace. First though we must let Jesus look upon us. I remember at New Years, after the clock struck midnight at the SLS conference, they brought Jesus out in the monstrance. There I was trying to kneel down amidst the thousands of balloons that had fallen, in a crowd of thousands of other people. Everyone was on their knees, and it was silent. All you could here was balloons rubbing together as they were pressed up against us, then a few balloons popping. Then it got really quiet, and out of the silence came, “Salve Regina….” As we joined together singing, I was struck by the gaze of Christ. Even among the thousands of other people surrounding me, the Lord found me. And He called my name. He called me deeper. At the time I didn’t know how, or why. Now maybe it was because I was in the middle of a novena to St. Joseph, but I said yes despite uncertainty. And 2020 continued to be full of similar yeses. Yeses where God met me where I was and called me out on the waters with no idea of where they would lead. Had I known some of the things that lied ahead I might of said no, but Jesus doesn’t offer us the knowledge of every detail of what lies ahead. He does however, offer the full knowledge that He will be with us every step of the way. The knowledge of our unity with him in mission is more than enough. For this union with him brings us peace. This is what Joseph sought in his sleep, it was this peace. The peace of Emmanual, which means God is with us. Follow St. Joseph’s example, and chase peace. Do not let yourself settle for comfort, or feeling of happiness, because these surely will fade. Just surrender like you’re about to fall off a boat and there’s nothing to grab on to 😉 (if you get this reference feel free to laugh).

Let me tell you from experience that saying yes does not mean it will be easy, saying yes means you are one step closer to eternity. I think back to being in NYC directly after that SLS conference, and to what happened in Times Square. As I stood the midst of one of the busiest places in the United States, God said “Mikayla, I want you here.” And that’s all he said, he did not say when or how long, and I prayed with it for months, and I really struggled to say yes. Long story short, and through the grace of having the right people come into my life at the right moment, I ended up saying yes to serving in the Bronx with the Seton Teachings Fellows. Most of you reading this, especially if you know me, have heard this all before. But there’s one thing I want you to see, and it’s not me haha. I want you to see Christ looking at you, calling you by name, each and every day. I want you this Christmas to encounter peace. Because God calls each and everyone of us to a very specific mission, in both big ways and little ways. Like St. Joseph we are called to play a specific role so that others can encounter the face of Christ. Your yes is important. Think about if Joseph had said no. What would have happen to Mary? What would have happened to Jesus?

Do not be afraid to say yes to God. Left the greatest gift you receive this year be the gift of his everlasting peace. Like St. John Paul II said, ““I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” For indeed it is you and it is Christ who wishes to speak to you.

“Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living…. It is you who must go…”

-St. John Paul II (Homily given to the youth in Denver on August 15th 1993)

The Beast. The Boy. The Man

This past Sunday I was sitting and watching the Broncos v Chiefs game with a few of my guy friends. As I was sitting there I had this random thought. I thought to myself if a robber came through that door right now I know that anyone of these gentlemen would take a bullet for me. Then I thought, now what of the Devil himself came through that door? Would they do the same? I was not so sure. I did not think this because I thought these men lacked virtue by any means, because honestly the men in that room are some of the most virtuous guys I know. But the Devil is no wee robber, he is the father of lies and deception. There’s a reason Adam backed down from his duty when that serpent came into the garden. And the reality is the Devil comes knocking a lot more than any robber, and he steals something far more valuable then money or material things.

The Devil is literally taking souls, destroying purity, and leading us into sins that destroy the holiest of holies. Everyday the Devil comes knocking on the door, yet so few men are willing to take the bullet. They choose to lose their soul, rather than their flesh. Everyday they fall for the lies of pornography, masturbation, pride, greed, addictions, selfishness, and their family suffers for it. Now I’m not saying ladies don’t do these things because they most certainly do, but today this blog is for the men. These men are not bad men, majority of these men would take a bullet for their wife and kids. But these men in the face of Satan make cowardly and barbaric decisions. One of the saddest parts about it, is most of these sins are directed towards the holiest of holies. It’s  the place where are Lord first came to dwell among us in the flesh, it’s the womb. Men, you have a duty to protect this sacred space and any child it ever bares. If we would take the bullet for someone, then we should be biting the bullet of abortion. If we love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul, nothing impure should enter that space. Let it be a space that is nurtured with love, not lust. Let it blossom with life, and not the reek of death.

The perfect role model to be this man of virtue is St. Joseph. St. Joseph is the reason our Blessed Mother was not stoned to death. He is the reason that Jesus did not die in his infancy. Joseph was a man after God’s own heart and because of that he laid down his life for Mary and Jesus. St. Joseph so easily could have been like most men these days who slip out the back door when the duty of fatherhood comes their way. St. Joseph instead listened to the Lord and took Mary in as his own. God chose Joseph knowing he was strong and capable of protecting him at his most vulnerable stages. He gave Joseph the graces he needed and allowed him to realize what true fatherhood is. Fatherhood is not just some biological things and it’s eternal. Fatherhood means being a protector, provider, educator, and these duties last forever. These roles do not end when we put the kids to bed,nor do they start when you have a kid, nor do they end in death. Your daddy is still your daddy. (If the word Daddy makes you cringe, then Satan might have too tight of a grip on you or maybe left you with some wounds). 

Think about this. You all know the story of Beauty and the Beast. Do you recall what made the prince turn into a beast? Yes, it was because of his selfishness and pride. He failed to live in the goodness in which he was made for. His sins turned him into a beast, and the only thing that could turn him back into a man was pure love. Now finding the woman of your dreams is not going to make you a man. But by loving God, and those around you with a pure heart you too and be a real boy Pinocchio, haha. Seriously though, don’t be the world’s version of a man’s man, don’t be a beast. Be a King, be a protector of the most vulnerable, be a man after God’s own heart. 

Gentlemen, I want you to know that even the sins that happen behind closed doors effect those you love most. Every woman is somebody’s daughter, and every woman holds within her the very organ that through Mary brought salvation into the very world. Think about that, and don’t you forget it. Satan is going to come knocking, but don’t let him in. Instead let Joseph and Mary in and let them knock him a little harder. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want the Terror of Demons, and Satan’s skull crusher fighting for their soul. And there’s no better time then advent to let the Holy Family into your life. No guns and nunchucks needed, a simple devil beating rosary will do. This advent I invite you to truly meditate on the holy family, in particular the role of St. Joseph. Meditate on what fatherhood truly means, and who St. Joseph must have been if he was entrusted with protecting the savior. Argue with me all you want, but I haven’t heard of anyone else who was chosen by God to be the FOSTER FATHER of Jesus. Boom, lets slay those demons boys!!

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall she the face of God.” (Mt 5:8)

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Renowned offspring of David, pray for us.
Light of Patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Diligent protector of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most strong, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of artisans, pray for us.
Glory of home life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Pillar of families, pray for us.
Solace of the wretched, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world. And prince over all his possessions.
He made him the lord of his household.
Let us pray, — O God, in your ineffable providence you were pleased to choose Blessed
Joseph to be the spouse of your most holy Mother; grant, we beg you, that we may be worthy
to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector: You
who live and reign forever and ever.
Saint Joseph, pray for us. Amen.

Mercy

PC: Abbey Hugo

Imagine you’re on a big cruise ship, and you look out to see someone who has fallen overboard. Any good human is going to grab a life preserver and toss it overboard. By no work or merit of their own do you choose to save that person. You see them struggling and about to drown, so you save them. The only choice they have in this situation is to allow themselves to be saved. It’s not even a matter of whether or not they can see you, or believe in you, it is simply choosing to grab onto the life preserver. Pride may tell them they don’t need help, or sloth may say it’s not worth trying, but the choice is theirs.

Now if we change the story to be Jesus holding out that life preserver to you who is drowning, suddenly many of us think that by our faith or merit, Jesus decided to throw the life preserver out to you. That you some how earned the right to be saved, or that because we know Him or have seen Him that He chose to save us. I am here to tell you this image of Jesus is wrong and it’s a toxic trap. Jesus chooses to save us by His own grace. Did He not die for us while we were still living in sin? People receive mercy, when they choose to surrender. Mercy is for you, mercy is for everyone, as long as we are willing to surrender our entire selves.

His mercy alone will always be enough, yet so few souls believe that. Here we have man who was made and chosen by God to protect all of creation, yet everyday the men in our society are crumbling under the overwhelming odds they face and the constant burden of feeling alone in the battle. So he falls. God does not make mistakes, yet Satan has convinced many men that they are not capable of being good fathers, husbands or brothers. So why bother trying? Therefore they fall into abandoning or abusing these duties.

Then on the other side we have the crown of all creation. The only one not made straight from dirt, the grand finale of creation, woman. Woman was chosen to be the connecting piece, the intuitive one, the bearer of new life. And now woman has put her trust in the wrong places, and because of that, has fallen. Now the crown of creation goes everyday living in the fear of not being enough. Now we have men and women living in fear of the very thing they were made for. And our sins reflect those fears. A woman looks at pornography in search of being enough. A man drinks excessively to blind himself to the odds he faces.

The only way to fix this brokenness is through the perfect sacrifice. God sent His only begotten Son, to die for our sins in perfect love that casts out all fear. Then fearlessly we can fall into His mercy. But we have to want it, we have to trust in it. It’s the like the dirty boy who needs a bath. He will never be clean again unless he takes a bath. And he will never be completely clean unless he places his entire self into the water. Not only that, but this is a choice we must make daily. Getting clean once, does not prevent us from getting dirty later. If only we could see the filth that sin leaves on our souls. We become so dirty we are beyond recognition. Why? Because our sin does not define at all who we are. Yet the world will tell you it does. For our sins, Christ’s body was beaten beyond recognition of the eye, but the hearts of those who knew His soul still recognized Him and still loved Him. And Christ does the same for us, though we are dirty and festering with the wounds of sin. Have you ever seen an animal with dirt caked on it so bad that if you peel it off the flesh comes with it? This is what it’s like to have a dirty soul. This is why the sacrament of confession is so important. We need to be bathed and reminded of who we truly are, and we ought to do it often. Yet here some of us arey, dipping ourselves further into sin. Falling into pleasures, hoping to be understood, to discover who we are, or strive to live up to what we think we should be. Do you really think you were made to be understood in terms of sex? 

Stop letting the fear of the overwhelming odds, or not being enough stand in the way of what you were made for. It is you. It is you that Christ has chosen since the moment God said let there be light. He is not waiting for your perfection. He is waiting for your surrender. Christ stumbled three times on His journey to the throne. Will you not stumble a million times more? And was Christ not God Himself? He humbled himself to take on our wounds. He took on our sins. Instead of being the war hero who was stoic and strong, who could fight any battle with one finger, like we would expect, through His own choice, surrendered His infinite power. So that we, the weaker ones, could crucify Him. Just so that He could be the sacrifice, and in the face of death surrender to it. This is the gift He freely chose to give. To humble Himself, to be a reflection of us, in total lack of comfort or ability to fight back. All of this to simply say the truth to our broken hearts. That there is nothing that could separate us from His reach. And He rose again to show us that He has indeed conquered death. What now is left to fear, but fear itself? This choice seems easy and clear. Yet many, when given the choice, choose death rather than mercy. Mercy freely given and received by our surrender makes a saint. But he who refuses to encounter mercy, ultimately chooses hell. Be a Saint! Be not Afraid!