If you follow my blog or happen by a post of mine, I pray you’ll notice, even if I don’t post often, I post when I feel God calling me to share what’s on my heart.
I’ve been busy the past nine months. Going back about a year ago I heard God’s calling to start training to become a spiritual director. It’s not about directing anything, but through contemplative listening I’m learning to help others notice the movement of God and to hear invitations of the holy in their own lives.
As my first year of training comes to a close in a few weeks, I thought I’d share what I have learned and how God is working in and on my life. It is admittedly a bit long, but I hear God prompting me to share it with you, so here it is.
God knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb. Before I was born, God set me apart, for such a time as this. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) My God is a god of love, purpose, and order. I believe every experience of my life is part of God’s divine purpose for me. Looking back at my life, where I have been, and where I am now, it isn’t so hard to see the ways God has prepared me for this moment. My God of order led me to Barracuda’s night club, where I met Paul. My God of purpose prompted Paul to invite me to Alpha nearly twenty-eight years ago. My God of love knew what an amazing conversion would take place in me that October weekend, not only in my personal spiritual journey, but in my heart, and in the physical journey of my life. My God of love, purpose, and order called me to this moment. It is a beautiful journey and a journey to be shared. So, sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride of my life.
My parents told me I would never meet a nice guy in a bar/night club, and I suppose to some degree I believed them. But I also believe God already had a plan for me to meet this guy in the nightclub named Paul. Nice enough guy but I didn’t see us being much more than friends. Regardless of my plan, my God of purpose prompted Paul to invite me to an Alpha Retreat weekend. I wasn’t prepared for the conversions that would take place over that weekend. There was an amazing conversion of my heart that took place, not only regarding my feelings toward Paul, but a shift in my faith. The experience of the Catholic Mass was the first (but certainly not the last) time in my life, I became an active participant in my faith through the doctrine and Mass of the Catholic faith. I had no idea at the time where I was going, but looking back now to twenty-eight years ago, it is very clear to me what God was doing. To this day, I can still hear God laughing, lovingly of course, at my plan. I married that nice guy from the bar in August of nineteen ninety-four and nine months later I was confirmed into the Catholic Faith. Paul and I have a beautiful life together with three amazing children and an overflow of God’s grace, mercy, and blessings. Looking back through the years and chapters of my life, I realize how God was preparing me for Audire. Many times in my life, I have been called to listen to friends and family during a difficult or painful experience, or sometimes to celebrate in a joyous moment. I sense God provided these and other opportunities like these as part of His plan for my life, for this moment, and for this journey. Fast forward to Spring of twenty-nineteen, the day I saw Audire mentioned in our parish bulletin, I knew, without a doubt, God was calling. I am in awe of the amazing work God has accomplished in and through me over the last seven or eight months. This is only the beginning of my life’s next chapter, My Life, God’s Plan.
I believe God planned long ago for me to journey down this path. I also believe my life’s Guide took me the long way around so I could grow, emotionally and spiritually and be at the best possible place Audire. That path landed Paul and I in Merritt Island about two years ago where we were quickly welcomed into the community of Divine Mercy Parish. Early in 2019 we accepted an invitation to join a Small Christian Community with eight other people. Through our Friday night gatherings these people became my people, my friends. Each, in their own way have challenged me and helped me grow in so many ways. But it is my friend Liz that has become my spiritual director and I am very grateful. I understand the importance of meeting with a spiritual director as a requirement for Audire, but little did I realize what an incredible impact this “companion for my journey” would have on me, my life, and my relationship with God. Initially, I was unsure about how my sessions would go, questioning how I was going to feel with sharing, often times very personal and private problems, concerns, and details of my life. In nearly a year of experience in meeting with Liz, I feel incredibly blessed by what God has revealed to me, through her and my own moments of silent observance and listening. I have learned how to better, intentionally and purposefully, tune into the heart of God and listen to what is being communicated directly to me. I know my God is a god of love and love has the greatest impact on every aspect of my life.
Very recently my daughter learned of the unexpected death of her high school boyfriend. This young man was so very bright in more than one sense of the word. Yet while he was in relationship with our daughter, there were many red flags for us as her parents. It was a series of events, but I am sure it was God’s grace, mercy, and love, that led us to discovering she was alone with this young man at his house against our wishes. Within a week or two, she was in outpatient treatment for her emotional/mental illness as well as substance abuse. We did what we thought was best for her at the time, keeping her home and away from this young man. Fast forward to the night we found out about his death. That night and into the next few days, I found myself feeling a mix of conflicting emotions. I sensed a feeling of guilt for being both sad and grateful at the same time. I sat with my feelings for a bit before taking it to spiritual direction. I shared with Liz what I was feeling. She helped me realize that all of the emotions I felt were all coming from a place of love for this young man. I recognized; God doesn’t want me to feel guilty for loving another human being. It doesn’t have to be a choice between one feeling or the other. It is and can be both and, and that is ok.
As I reflect back on my spiritual direction sessions, God is revealing to me that many of the cracks or broken places within me didn’t happen from lack of love, but because I love…deeply. Through spiritual direction about this and so much more, the brokenness has healed, and I have been exposed to the healing that comes with sharing those parts with my companion and, in turn, my capital “C” Companion. I believe my God of purpose walked me through these parts of my life to better prepare me for today’s journey. It is through all of my life experiences, my own cracks and wounds, joys and victories, that my Healer works, so I may be a better “companion for the journey” for others.
My journey didn’t begin with Alpha or Audire, but each of these experiences began a new chapter in my journey of faith and my book of life. As I read through the various reflections, I find myself walking side by side with my Guide, through healing, tremendous growth, new awareness, and new perspectives on life. I feel more aware of who I am, excited for how far I have already traveled, and eager to grow, change, and discover more of myself, as well as the journey alongside and with those whom I am in relationship with and those not yet known to me.
The morning of our first Audire session. I remember feeling such joy, excitement, and love, walking into the chapel through the crowd of cheering people, some new faces and some familiar to me. I remember it screamed an affirmation from God, a reminder that this part of my journey was on the map my “Tour Guide” had planned for me. Throughout that first session God revealed so much to me about details of my life that landed me here. I recall many occasions in my own life that I have been called to listen, to be a “companion for the journey” for others. Whether the need is simply to verbalize a hardship, share a difficult or painful experience, or sometimes, to celebrate in a joyous moment. I often find the experiences of my friends and family are very similar to current events in my own life. It is the struggles, painful life experiences, and even the joyous ones that have come and gone. In hindsight, I see how God used those situations to teach, strengthen, guide, and grow me. My experiences have helped fulfill my Creator’s purpose for my life and bring glory to my God. One of my life’s experiences that has produced strength, guidance, and growth is the journey I have been on and continue to travel through physical pain. Reflecting on my journey, I can almost visualize a line graph where God met me in my pain and drew me into acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude for the journey. Of course, I would certainly prefer not to live in residence with pain, the larger part of me appreciates and loves the invitation to grow through the pain and offer it for God’s glory.
My first-year journey in Audire has been filled with the same joy, excitement, and love as I felt on day one, only the intensity deepens, along with the deepening growth, understanding, and love. I definitely feel the presence of God within me, around me, and in others. I am finding that with each Audire meeting, I feel extremely open and optimistic about each day and the experiences throughout. I am a theologian. Not in the sense of my younger idea of what a theologian looked like. Some old, gray–haired man, hunched over a desk, in the dim light of a single candle, quill pen in hand, scratching out his head knowledge of God’s Word from decades of study. The type of theologian I am, is who I have become because of my years of faith, practice and especially my experiences of God. I have a great deal of experience, self-awareness. I continue to grow and change with each God experience. I desire to fully surrender to and trust completely in God. I want to grow in prayer and grow so close to God that I am able to live in the perfect plan my Pilot has for my life. I am called to be the incarnational embodiment of God in this life.
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” ― Teresa of Avila
I am called to be the hands, feet, eyes, and body of Jesus. I love how Audire has already been a conversion in my life. It has opened me up to better look beyond any differences I have with others and truly see each individual for who God created them to be. I love how I have grown through and am on my way out of my personal challenge of writing/speaking about God in inclusive terms. Inclusive in the sense that I don’t speak of God in terms that might limit another person’s idea of who God is. I have a long-standing relationship with God, and I relate best to God through the language that has been part of my faith for the majority of my life, God as Father and Son. I am free to relate to God as I desire, in the strong, solid, masculine being that rules over my life. But in the framework of spiritual direction, I recognize how speaking about and referring to God in my own terms could limit someone else’s idea of who God is, and that is not beneficial to that person or in the context of a spiritual direction session. Inclusive language, that comes across more as titles of God will be of greater help/benefit to any given directee that comes to me. I feel a little awkward in referring to or speaking about God as “she”. But just as my relationship, much like my feelings, are not right or wrong and do not have to be one way or the other. They can be both and.
I feel very much at peace with, affirmed in, and excited by God’s call to the ministry of spiritual direction. The road isn’t necessarily easy or smooth, but I have grown to a place where I welcome the bumps and detours in life, because it is from within those times that the best fruit comes. It’s called “produce” for a reason! I am a product of my God of love, purpose, and order and I am so grateful for this call to Audire. I look forward with anticipation, as the “me” God calls me to, the-better-version-of-myself, continues to bloom and grow fruit for the garden of life.