Tag Archives: change


Waiting for God

I know best how God is working in my life by looking back. In the present moment, God’s guidance and actions may not be as clear as when I pause and look back. So at the end of every year, I take some time to re-read my journals, and I take note of any themes or directions.

At the beginning of last year’s journal, I jotted down some quotes from Isaiah and 1 Corinthians and then I wrote, “What if I lived every moment as a God moment? As if I was waiting for God to come to my door?”

As I read those words, I was actually waiting for some friends to come to brunch, sitting in anticipation of their knock at the door.

What if, I thought, I really lived in that kind of anticipation of God’s intervening in my life?  If I knew with such certainty that God was about to show up? That God was about to knock on the door?

My word for this year is awareness and these questions seem to invite me to a deeper reflection on my relationship with God and my openness to God’s presence in my life.

  • How aware am I of God’s presence in my everyday life?
  • How attentive am I to God’s promptings?
  • How often do I offer up prayers of thanksgiving or petition throughout the day?

I want to start this new year with my focus more firmly fixed on God and the way God calls me to live. I know that will mean some changes, and I pray for the grace to be attentive and the courage to act.


Formed by God

This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Rise up, be off to the potter’s house…I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you…as this potter has done?…Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…” Jeremiah 18:1-6

I love pottery and started buying it when I was twenty. My collection grew quite large until a friend who was helping me pack for one of my many moves said, “New rule: no more pottery.”God-vulnerability-prayerThe uniqueness of each piece of hand-thrown pottery fascinates me.

It is understandable then that the image of the potter at his wheel in Jeremiah has always caught my attention. How I would love for God to tell me to go to a potter’s house!

I can easily imagine a lump of clay being shaped and reshaped. I imagine that some of the form comes from the potter and some of the form from the clay. It is a partnership—the potter’s concept and the clay’s malleability.

That, perhaps, is where using the potter and clay to analogize my relationship with God hits a snag. Am I as pliable as clay? Am I completely open to being shaped and reshaped? Unfortunately, I think not.

As I read these words of Scripture the other day, I tried to imagine how God would reshape me at this point in my life. What would I look like if I dropped all of my defenses and allowed myself to fall into a vulnerable heap? How would God remake me?

I have some sense of that level of vulnerability and defenselessness from times in my life when my hopes and expectations were not met (crushed, really), and I had to accept that I was not in charge. Those times of raising my arms in surrender, of giving myself completely to God, were freeing and also terrifying. Accepting my vulnerability and admitting I have no control is so very difficult for me.God-vulnerability-prayerAnd yet, I do know that God holds all the cards.

As I read these words from Jeremiah, I remembered my spiritual director’s suggestion that I start with a clean sheet and imagine my life. I actually did the exercise, which in itself is a sign of how God has reshaped me—all of my past spiritual directors can attest to my resistance to these types of suggestions. And, like other times when I have moved against my resistance, this exercise was very insightful.

Perhaps I need to start each day visualizing myself as an unshapen lump of clay, and ask God to shape me into a vessel that will be most useful to carry out God’s will on this day and.in this place.God-vulnerability-prayer







One of the readings at Mass on Pentecost Sunday was Acts 2:1-11. When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly…

The word suddenly caught my attention—and held it. Throughout the rest of Mass and in the days since then, I have been repeating it.

Everything changed for the disciples on the first Pentecost. In one moment, the old life was gone; a new life started.God-vulnerability-faithI thought of times in my life when suddenly everything changed. My own Pentecost experience on March 7, 1973, was a life-changing encounter with the Spirit. I had new hope and vision after that encounter. Life looked different; the possibilities seemed endless.

That was a good suddenly.God-vulnerability-faithThere have been other times, though, when things changed suddenly, but not in a positive way. Jim’s cancer diagnosis was like that. One day, he was fine and then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Life looked different, but the possibilities were not evident.

Fortunately for me, in between those two events—the first when I was twenty-one and the second when I was fifty-nine—I had plenty of other times when my life was going in one direction and then changed course. All of those course shifts taught me the importance of restoring balance as quickly as possible—and of trusting that no matter the direction, God was always with me.

But, why now did this word take hold? What is the significance?

I prayed for insight. Every time I found myself repeating the word, suddenly, I would ask God, “What is the invitation in this word?”

The next weekend at Mass, our pastor talked about personal missions—not going on mission or being a missionary—but rather having clarity about my specific mission, God’s plan for me with my exact history, gifts, skills and talents.

One would think that by my age, I would have great clarity about my life mission, especially since I have spent most of my life working in mission-driven nonprofits.

But then I think of Sarah and Elizabeth having babies in their old age, and I know that God does not have the same expectations of age that we do.

The thing about sudden events is that there is no way to anticipate them or to plan for them. But there is a way to live that makes it easier to receive them.

For me, that means letting go of expectations, dropping my defenses and keeping my cynicism in check. It means being open and vulnerable and willing to be born again in the Spirit.God-vulnerability-faithNext Friday is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an invitation to ponder unfathomable love and an invitation to keep my heart open to receiving and giving love. If I can do that, the Spirit’s sudden movement will be a breath of fresh air.










I think that my blog post last week sparked my thinking about the ways fear has impacted my life. Since writing about love lost, I have been flooded with memories of other occasions when I made decisions based on fear rather than trust.

How many times have I lost love because I was too scared? How many missed opportunities for love have there been?

Fear is useless; what is needed is trust, I tell myself over and over. But living those words continues to challenge me.fear-trust-faithI recently watched Inside Out, an animated film about the emotions that influence our lives—joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness. Riley, the girl in the movie, grows up in a loving family; when she is eleven, her father’s work takes the family from Minnesota to California. Everything changes, and she goes from primarily being joyful to being terribly angry. In her anger, she loses trust in her parents and makes decisions that are clearly misguided.fear-trust-faithAs I watched the movie, I wondered about my own decision-making history. I wondered how many times my family and friends have watched me make decisions based on fear or anger—and stood by shaking their heads at my misguided choices.

After I had lived in l’Arche for about six months, I came back to Pennsylvania for a two-week holiday. My friends were shocked at my appearance. In those six months, I had lost twenty pounds or so and apparently looked unhealthy. I knew I was fatigued and generally unhappy, but my friends’ reactions were alarming.

“You can’t go back there,” one friend after another told me.

Not go back? I had to go back. I had made a commitment.

But, like Riley in the movie, I was having a really tough time. Change can be so difficult.

How could I admit—after just six months—that I had made a mistake or that I could not do what I had set out to do? Pride and fear paralyzed me.fear-trust-faithGoing back meant my health would continue to suffer. Moving back after six months felt like a failure. Neither option held much hope for me; either way, I felt like I was a disappointment.

Looking back on that time, I can now see options and possibilities that were not clear to me then.

Back then, fear was motivating my decisions. Fear of failure, fear of looking weak, fear of disappointing. My judgment was clouded.

Inside Out shined a light on how memories stack up to create a preference or inclination. If I have lots of joyful memories, I am more likely to expect joy and to look for it. If my memories are sad, fearful or angry, I am more likely to see through that lens.

Moving from fear to trust is a conscious decision, and I have decided to recall two joyful memories every time sad or angry memories surface. Hopefully this small exercise will help tip the scales away from fear and toward trust.fear-trust-faith


Being open to something new

“I’m glad you’re willing to try new things,” a friend said as we kayaked across the lake at her cottage.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“So many people our age won’t try new things,” she said.

It was my first visit to her cottage and just before we got into the kayaks, I had learned to paddle board.

I think I come by it naturally. My mother, at ninety years old, is still trying new things. She tries new recipes, new card games, new stores, and she wants to get a rain barrel. I love that she continues to be open. Trying new things—like learning to kayak and paddle board in my sixties—does not seem so unusual to me.

Being open to new things is also part of my spiritual life. “I am doing something new,” God promises in Isaiah 43:19, and Jesus invites us to change direction time and again. Think of the apostles who were living their lives and then changed course or of St. Paul and other holy people throughout the ages. The openness to hear God’s voice and move in a new direction is one of the hallmarks of the spiritual journey.

My life has undergone so many changes in the past five years, and I can’t say it has always been easy to embrace the new. But God keeps inviting me to be open, to let go of the past and move into a new future. Trusting that God is with me through it all makes accepting and adapting a bit easier. Letting go of expectations of how things “should be” also helps.

Still, it can be scary to step into the unknown and to feel vulnerable and uncertain. I think my paddle board lesson offers a good model, though, for moving into the future.

I started in shallow water with someone holding the board. First, I knelt on the board and paddled around a bit to get a feel for it. Then I stood and found my balance. I paddled in the shallow water first and then venture further out.

Starting out small and building confidence makes the change easier.

Of course, not all change is voluntary. Aging brings about physical changes that can be difficult to accept—failing eyesight, less stamina and the effects of gravity, to name a few. Disease or disability can also cause changes and present challenges. Not all of “the new” is positive; God does not say it will be.

I think that practicing a willingness to try new things sets up an openness to change that can help when the involuntary changes happen. When brain cancer limited my friend Jim’s use of his right hand, he said, “I guess I’ll become a lefty.”

Being unwilling even to try anything new results in missed opportunities. I am not advocating recklessness (like sky diving or extreme sports), but rather an openness to experience whatever new God is presenting.

Once I get the hang of it, I just may try paddle board yoga.

paddleboard yoga

Lamenting the end of Downton Abbey

A friend recently told me she and some friends had gone to tea at a local pastry shop to mark the end of Downton Abbey. They enjoyed tea and scones while sharing their favorite episodes and characters from the show. Among the items discussed was which character each of them would want to be.

I have watched all six seasons of the show, and I loved getting to know the characters and their relationships, but I never thought about which character I would want to be.

I asked which character she would want to be.

“Lady Mary,” she said without hesitation.

Lady Mary

“Why?” I asked incredulously. “She is such a b–ch,” I added.

My friend explained that she wished she could be as­­ direct as Lady Mary and as determined to get what she wants. She liked how Lady Mary was unapologetic in her quests and conquests.

She concluded with, “Everyone wants to be Lady Mary.”

“Not me!” I declared.

I then listed Lady Mary’s negative character traits—she is bossy and demanding and cold to her sister.

My friend saw Mary as indomitable and sure of herself. She saw Mary’s reconciliation with Edith at the end of the series a sign of Mary’s ability to be compassionate. I conceded that their reconciliation was a good sign, but Lady Mary still had a long way to go in my opinion.

We seemed to be looking at the same person through a different lens. What I saw as character flaws, my friend saw as admirable traits. What I saw as things that needed to be worked on and changed, my friend saw as attributes.

And then it occurred to me—as I was enumerating what I saw as Lady Mary’s negative traits, I was also listing my own. I can be bossy and demanding and I have been called some version of one tough broad more than once. I am not comfortable feeling vulnerable and I hate being blindsided and looking stupid.

“Maybe I already am Lady Mary,” I blurted out. My friend did not disagree.

I could see it. The tough exterior, suppressed emotions, keeping everything under control, her loyalty, and the way Lady Mary protected those she cared about. Yes, I could see why my friend did not contradict my declaration. I really am quite like Lady Mary.

In the final episodes of the show, Lady Mary does soften somewhat. She and her sister reconcile and she listens to Tom’s wisdom and advice about love. She allows herself to be vulnerable and risk love again.

Maybe there is hope for me yet.

But, upon reflection, the character I would want to be is Mrs. Crawley. She is so wise, sensitive, understanding and insightful. She is accepting of most everyone (except Lord Merton’s wicked sons) and loves her cousin Violet despite the Dowager’s sometimes acerbic tongue.

Maybe I will watch the series again—through a different lens.

Brussels sprouts and loofas

God promises to do something new (Isaiah 43:19), and I believe the promise. I have been praying to be open to the something new God wants for me, but I sometimes wonder how God can do something new if I am clinging tenaciously to the old.

So I have also been praying to be more aware of what I am holding onto and where I am resistant to change.

The prayer seems to be working; almost every day I am aware that I am being resistant to something. I catch myself saying, “I don’t like…” or “I don’t do…” or “I don’t eat…” or some other words which express that I am being obstinate.

For example, I tend to be fairly adventurous when it comes to trying different foods. My one disclaimer is that I don’t eat Brussels sprouts. (Ok, full disclosure, I also don’t eat those baby chicks on a stick they sell in the Philippines, and I get a bit queasy about some of the greens I have had in Africa, but otherwise, I am willing to try just about anything.)

A few weeks ago at dinner with a friend, she suggested we share a Brussels sprout salad. “I don’t eat Brussels sprouts,” I said. She was willing to order a different salad, but the restaurant was known for this particular one, so I moved against my resistance and agreed to try it. I am not sure what they did to alter the taste, but these Brussels sprouts were very good and I actually enjoyed the salad.

Later that same week, I received a gift bag full of spa-type products, including a loofa. I have received loofas before, but not used them; I use wash cloths. This time, though, I decided to try the loofa. When I went to work and gushed about my discovery of the wonders of the loofa, my co-worker looked at me quizzically. She has been using loofas for a long time. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I asked. “Why didn’t I listen?” is probably the better question.

The habits, patterns and guidelines I have created to give structure to my life can lead to a rigid rejection of anything different. That which is familiar and comforting can get in the way of receiving the new that God is offering.

Whether it is trying a new food (or one I have previously decided I don’t eat) or trying a new endeavor or welcoming a new person into my life, whenever I hesitate or hear myself say no, I know I am  being resistant. My little resistances are signs that I am not free, that I am holding too tightly to something.

Every day, God offers me the opportunity to live my life in a different way. Brussel sprouts and loofas are just two steps along the path to freedom.