Hold On

Today is March 24. Today marks six months since the passing of my Dad to his eternal rest. The experience of losing my father has shown me how little I know, and it has humbled me greatly. When I think of how to describe losing a parent, the images of earthquakes and volcanoes come to mind. Losing him has shattered my world in ways that I did not expect. The cracks have spread since then and become deeper.

I thought I was so close in my relationship with Christ. As many of you already know I discerned my vocation to religious life very seriously for about two years. Now I find that it is hard to find the motivation to make it to Mass, something I used to relish. Maybe that is why I feel so weak in mind and body. I have shut the door to God and I forgot where I put the key.

So many well-meaning people have tried to walk this journey with me, through dad’s illness and death but I still feel so alone in my experience. I have other people close to me that have also lost a parent at a young age while there is much in common with our experiences I never knew my friend’s mom, she never knew my dad. No one can understand the history, years of joy and years of pain. No one can feel the heaviness in my chest or the tears threatening to break loose. I want to talk about dad, I want to talk about how I am doing, but I don’t know how. It almost always sucks all the air out of the room or immediately people are falling all over me saying how sorry they are without letting me speak. I don’t even know how to talk to my family. If they are having a good day I don’t want to drag them down for my benefit.

Dad wasn’t one for great shows of affection and when he did hug us he would squeeze so tight it hurt. I’m finding now that the only thing I really want is a great big bear hug, or to feel him kissing my forehead. I wish I could take back all that time when we were angry or not talking to each other back and replace it with happier memories, but I can’t so I go on.

How can you help? Ask me how I’m doing. Give me a hug when you see me. If I haven’t been out in a while please ask me to do something because if you don’t, I’ll just keep sleeping. Ask me to go to Mass with you. Pray for me and my family. I don’t need much, but I need the people I love to be or continue to be close to me. Promise me you will hold your memories close and continue to make new ones. You never know how much time you have until its over. Appreciate what you have, even if you don’t like it know I can tell you from experience you will miss it later.Dad-03My wonderful friend made this for my office space and I treasure it every day. This quote is from my dad’s blog that he started after he was diagnosed with cancer and the picture is from the day of his funeral.

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Caregiver Or Caretaker

Lately I have been struggling  with depression. I may have experienced depression in lighter forms at different parts of my life but never like this. My dad died last September and ever since I have been in somewhat of a fog just stumbling through my life. In this time I have been able to notice how good people can be. I’ve always identified myself as a caregiver and in these times when I am really in need of help others have stepped into that role for me and I am forever grateful.

Even on my worst days I always have a lifeline, a friend to call who loves me and can make me feel better. Wealth to me is not found in possessions or money but in the many amazing people God has allowed into my life. The other night I was missing my daddy and the tears that wouldn’t fall were suddenly everywhere. All I wanted in the world was someone to hold me and make me feel safe in a way my dad can’t anymore. 
I texted one of my friends who I knew would still be awake and minutes later she called me. She told me how amazing I am, how I genuinely care for people and my dad would be so proud of me. She said anyone who ever had a part in making me who I am would be proud.
I am so thankful for her and I hope everyone has a friend who will support them in their weak moments when they need to be told how good they are and that above all else, they are loved.

Blessings in Transition?

In the midst of yet another major transition I’m asking myself, “Is there benefit to this discomfort?” “Where is the good here?” I have recently finished my year of volunteer service, moved out of the volunteer house, and I’m starting two new jobs, looking for a car to buy, etc… Needless to say I’m a little stressed. Pretty much all the time!

One of my new bosses described me to his wife saying, “This girl, her life is one big trust fall into the arms of God!” Yes, that pretty much explains it! To many I’m sure I look like I have no plans or little direction. There is so much uncertainty and I can’t tell people much of what I am looking towards in my future. I tell them that I feel called to be here, I feel called by God to do this work right now. Yes, I don’t know my monthly income yet. Yes, I am not using my nursing license at the moment. But yes, I know God has my life in His hands and I trust Him to show me the way.

I am very much human and prone to frequent freak outs. When I’m breaking down in tears or completely paralyzed and overwhelmed by whatever life happens to be throwing at me I know I need to slow down, move over, and give Him the time and space to comfort me, to work with me. @Corinthians 12:10 says “Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

When there are cracks in our armor of distractions, false security, and self-confidence, That is when we are most able to let God in, to allow Him in. He is kind and will never force Himself on anyone if they are not willing to let Him past the door, over our walls, through our many, great, defenses. He waits patiently and He longs for us to come to Him.

Though I don’t always like the paths I have to go down to realize this truth time and time again, I am thankful, and I am blessed with this journey and this transition.

A day in the life or a year of possibility and growth…

Since August I have been living in St. Louis, Missouri in Vincentian Mission Corps. VMC is a year long volunteer  program focused on serving the poor in the St. Louis area. I am currently working in a shelter for pregnant women and their children called Our Lady’s Inn.
We not only provide food and shelter for our clients (which we refer to as our lady’s) but we have in-house nutrition and parenting classes, mindfulness teaching for birth. We also have agencies that come such as a doula agency and Nurses for Newborns.
Every lady comes to us with different needs we work with them to establish goals such as getting a GED, getting a job or drug treatment programs. We get them access to the resources they need in all areas healthcare, education, food ect.

I have many responsibilities my main responsibility is childcare. When we have our in-house classes or the moms have appointments with our on staff nurses, family specialists (social workers), or our counselor they can leave their children with me in our playroom. I also do the grocery shopping which includes picking up the WIC groceries for the ladies. I sometimes work in the office with the phones and answering the door. However most of my time is spent in our storage rooms inventorying donations and organizing them in our limited space. We have clothing for the ladies and their children, a small food pantry and a room for baby items such as clothes, diapers, pacifiers, bottles, all the baby essentials! I make layettes for the ladies which is a clothing hamper filled with all the baby items arranged ‘with care’.I never can tell what the next day will look like. Originally my type A personality HATED this. I wanted my lists, I wanted to know what was expected of me. I have learned many valuable things at Our Lady’s Inn such as flexibility, listening, patience, building meaningful relationships and navigating workplace stressors. When you give your life to the Lord He rewards you above and beyond your wildest imaginings. The work has been hard and I have had many moments of questionable sanity and I have thought about giving up more than once. The pros have always outweighed the cons. 

I have the support of four amazing women who also have placements around the city. We live in community together in an old convent. We share meals, prayers, fun, and battle stories. We have a fantastic director who went through our same program years ago and the whole Vincentian family! 

I love how Catholic this area is. My Faith has kept me going on my worst days and having the support of the daily Mass crowd has been priceless. I am so extraordinarily happy, I have grown so much. I have developed new life habits, I am healthier and I am blessed!

I could write a book about my experiences but this is not the place. Any questions are welcome as I’m sure you will have some!  

    
   

When the Security and Comfort of Defining Labels is Torn Away

Child, son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, nurse, teacher, engineer, student.

As a young adult I have been transitioning through roles at lightning speed. I’m realizing it has actually been that way most of my life. This is something I’m sure we can all relate to. Take a moment to think about the labels and roles that have defined your life the past year or two. How do you cope with losing your “identity”?

It’s definitely painful transitioning especially when it catches you off guard. In the last two years I have been a nursing student, a secretary for a building campaign, a nurse in the hospital, a nanny, a religious discerner, and now a full time volunteer at a shelter for pregnant women who are homeless.

After the shock and pain of the first barrage of label stripping, I was spinning. I had lost my footing and my direction, I felt helpless. I can tell you my compass seems to still be quite broken or otherwise unreliable. At the center of my confusion there is an unchanging peace. A garden of refuge where Jesus waits patiently for me to throw my arms up in the air and run to Him, shedding the weight of my uncertainty and despair. This garden is where I am learning to trust in the Man with the plan. He holds me close and tells me to forget about my compass and take a good look at His.

I was told life is like a mountain, as you climb higher you can see more of what is around you. This is how He shows us our future. Tiny glimpses, enough to take the next step or two over that rock or ducking under that branch. One day as we get closer to the top the view will be wider. The beauty will take your breath away. Until then I need to be patient, focus on the next step, try to keep my feet firm on the path. Take my time in the gift that is now. The gift of the present.

What do you say? Take a walk with me and my Friend?

 

 

Thoughts on the Jubilee Year of Mercy

Saint Thomas Aquinas defines mercy as  “the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him.”

I recently watched a video on youtube on the Jubilee Year of Mercy done by Fr. Mike Schmitz. In this video he talks about the importance of being merciful to others and how we take steps to being merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful. How we can become missionaries of mercy?

First, take other people seriously. Be present in their lives, put down your phone, put down whatever preoccupies your life. Just sit, just be, just listen.

Second, take other people’s pain personally. Share in their suffering, bring consolation and rest.

Third, do what you can, not what you can’t. I’ll explain this more later.

Now, all of you reading this are aware of your imperfections, spiritual, physical, ect. Your Heavenly Father loves you with your faults, He celebrates your struggle and your battle to overcome these faults. You know how you treat people. Could it be better? Are you striving to grow and become better?

If you died today and people who knew you spoke at your funeral, if they were being completely honest what would they say?

Oh, she went to church but she was so arrogant and rude, she didn’t understand being a Christian is about love.

Well, he was the nicest guy to my face but I know he judged me harshly, he didn’t forgive easily, didn’t he know God is infinitely merciful and forgives my offenses?

 

How are you perceived? Are you trying your best to model your life after Christ, the most perfect example that ever shared in your humanity? When people perceive you wrongly, do you go after them in anger thus making their perception valid? Or do you strive to do better to live holier and show them who you really are by your true example?

Often times we are so focused on ourselves that we don’t see the impact we have on others. When you give your life, your very being to God, look around, the results can be humbling. Saint Vincent de Paul said “When God is the center of your life, no words are necessary, your mere presence will touch hearts.”

What Kind of tool are you for God? Are you a tool that builds love in someone’s soul? Are you a tool that demolishes it? Are you a tool that paints hope for the future? Are you a tool that stripes their walls bare? Are you a tool that covers sin and hurt with God’s infinite mercy? Are you a tool that exposes flaws and hurts?

If you haven’t already, begin to be present and take people’s lives seriously. I can tell you their Heavenly Father does. Take their pain personally, how can you be an extension of the Lord’s love and mercy to heal their wounded hearts? Do what you can, not what you can’t, every little bit counts, the Lord will give you the strength you need. Think about ways you can help, check out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy for ideas.

What will people say about you when you are gone? Do you like what you hear? If not, you hold the power to change the story.

 

Finally I would like to say, you are doing a good job, if you believe it no one has the power to say otherwise. You are beautiful and perfect in your Father’s eyes, He loves you infinitely. He is proud of the work you are doing and knows what your future holds, trust Him.

 

 

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My power is made perfect in weakness

Dad was diagnosed with cancer three days ago. I could easily focus on the negatives because that comes so naturally. But I am confronted with the precious frailty of the human life and the scramble to hang on to whatever shred of sanity I can.

There is good meant to come from every struggle in life. Dads diagnosis has brought the family closer together and strengthed our Faith. The other day Fr. Reed brought the most perfect gift to my father before he went to surgery, Jesus in the Eucharist.

I have found a huge network of support in the community I live with and the many beautiful Daughters of Charity not to mention the people at my fabulous work site.

I won’t say I’ve handled this news like a powerful superwoman. I am human too. I had one of those always welcome public cries the morning after I found out at Mass. I was blessed to have friends present to give me tissues and listen to my freak out!

I have found that it feels better to pray for peace. Acceptance of God’s plan. I also find myself praying for all the hands involved in the care of my dad, that they have the energy and strength to be the best they can be since I am not there. 

I am a caregiver, sometimes I try to deny it but it is so much a part of who I am. I have found myself trying to take all the needs and burdens of my family on my shoulders. This has made me evaluate my own needs and burdens which calls to mind the scripture passage, “for My yoke is easy and My burden light.” Matthew 11:30 I have found joy and peace in the love of my God. He nourishes me, cares for my soul, and holds me close when I cry to Him for comfort. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 I’ve started to embrace the weak state I find myself in these days because that is where He can take over and shine through me into the people I serve, into my family, into the people I meet longing for love and acceptance.

People ask me how I’m dealing. I’m at a wonderful place where I see how blessed we are and how God will always provide for those He loves and those who love Him.

I trust in You my God. All my imperfections are in front of You. Continue to lead the way. 

  

He is Patient With Me

“With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise as some regard “delay”, but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:8b-9

This calls to mind my very impatient self. Constantly waiting for something to happen for life to get better or easier, for Him to swoop down and fix it all just as I like. Right now! As a society we have become accustomed to instant gratification, shortcuts, hacks, cheats, easy… This passage reminds me that all will come in His time. He is patient with us and is giving us our crosses, our daily struggles and time. Time to work on ourselves and bring our lives back into focus, back to Him. He wants to give every single one of us our eternal reward which is heaven. He will not short change any of His precious children. He loves us, thirsts for our souls, and He wants to take our hearts at His prize. We are worth more to Him than all the riches of the earth.

I have been nannying two boys ages five and twelve. They are so unfocused sometimes and I imagine our relationship with God is much the same.

 When I want to take the boys out for some “adventure” or “treat” there is always one massive hurdle… Getting them out the door! It usually goes something like this:

“Boys get your shoes on.”

Ten minutes later boys come down and realize they are hungry… the five year old says:

“I’m actually quite hungry!”

Hmm well I’m quite ready to go…

“Get your shoes on.”

They eat a snack and by now have completely forgotten about getting their shoes on and go jump on the trampoline.

“Boys get your shoes on!!!”

They might sit and get started but if I don’t stand there they get distracted!

I imagine God is gently or not so gently reminding us of our goal. To seek holiness, to seek Him, and to obtain our ultimate goal- eternal life. We are children easily distracted with all the things the world has to offer. The solution you ask? Simplicity.

Oh really? That’s great but what exactly does that mean? It means de-cluttering your life. Like a good garage sale when you purge all the unnecessary things that have piled up in your house. You go back inside and there is space! You can breathe easier. When you cut out things or cut back on things that occupy so much time and space in your life (like me and Facebook) you have time and space to breathe, to invite God back into your life. Refocus and spend your time on what really matters.

Don’t wait for better, live in the gift that is the present moment. There is some good meant to come from today. We are more precious to God than all the riches the world has to offer. God is more precious to me than all the distractions the world has to offer. He is my number one priority, what’s yours?

  
Picture taken from Blessed Is She Instagram page. I definitely recommend following them and receiving the daily devotional emails.

Lectio Divina

For my friends who like the cliff notes version. I summed up several resources and added my own two cents!

Four stages of “Lectio Divina” or “Divine Reading”
Lectio Divina is a way of reading the scriptures that helps us to let go of our busy minds and invite God to speak in the quiet.
Stage 1 “Lectio”- Reading the scriptures. Select a passage and read it slowly and reflectively so that the Word of God and really sink in.

Stage 2 “Meditatio”- Reflection where you think deeply or meditate on what you just read. I usually think on a line or phrase that caught my attention. Sometimes I need to read it again for something to jump out and grab me.

Stage 3 “Oratio”- Response. What does this passage make you want to say to God? Many of us journal and I imagine that sometimes it looks like letters to God with questions and feelings or just venting the frustrations of the day. Take this time to let your heart speak. What is troubling you? What are you thankful for? What are you deepest longings? Tell Him!

Stage 4 “Contemplatio”- Rest. Let go of everything and just be. Be in the divine presence of God. Listen to what He is speaking to your heart. Give Him a quiet space of time. Invite Him to take this time and do with it what He wills.
Some of the times you pray with Lectio will be powerful moving experiences with God. Sometimes you’ll just feel like you read something and sat for 30 minutes or an hour and you might feel discouraged. Just remember in both these instances God is overjoyed by the gift of your time and the gift of yourself. You are precious in His eyes.

“Listen carefully, my son. To the precepts of thy master and incline the ear of your heart.” Rule of Saint Benedict

Encounter STL

I recently wrote this for Encounter a Steubenville Young Adult conference in St. Louis and I thought I’d share it here.image

My name is Sarah Woolhiser, I am a 22 year old currently residing in Cincinnati Ohio. I have been seriously discerning religious life for a year. I ended up at Encounter through my time with the Daughters of Charity and I am so very grateful.

I’ll be honest and tell you that my life does not look very different to an outsider. But who I am at the very core of my being is being dramatically transformed. God has been trying me with fire. Burning away my selfishness and leaving me with love and the desire to seek Him; the desire for true holiness. Encounter literally brought Him to me. At Adoration, Father Mike Schmitz brought the monstrance with the most precious body of Christ not a foot in front of me. Not only did I bawl like a baby, but I felt His love wrap around me and I was safe and warm. “He has put a gladness into my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep for You alone, oh Lord make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:7-8

I am on fire with His love and my desire is to give His love to everyone. “It is not enough for us to love God if our neighbor does not love Him also.” Saint Vincent de Paul

Encounter taught me and many other young adults that we are all disciples. It is our responsibility as members of the Church to bring Him to others and bring others into His one flock. I pray that God gives us the strength and the courage to carry out the marvelous plans He has for each and every one of us. I encountered Christ in the people I met at the conference all I had to do was open my eyes. He was there in the prayer huddle. He was there in the small group conversations. He was there in the flesh as we received Him in the Host. He lives in you and He lives in me. Let’s give Him to His people.