The Best Way to Make God Laugh

Today, we’ve swapped posts with Blessed and Beloved, a blog about the single life for Catholic women! This article was written by Michelle, one of the blog’s four foundresses, and originally published on the 14th of November 2014.

“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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 
Jeremiah 29: 11-13

I make plans. I have always made plans. I enjoy and get excited planning. Whether it is what I am doing this weekend or my childhood plans of going to Africa, living in an orphanage, or going to graduate school on the East coast, plans have directed me in life and given me security. For the most part too I have followed these plans believing they too were God’s plans for me. Plans gave me control and following them made me feel successful. They allowed me to be able to share with people where I was heading in life and look like I knew what I was doing. If you know me I am always doing something and usually many somethings. Just having plans to have plans though is where things get dangerous.

But God’s plans are not our plans. Most people have heard the saying, “if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans”. I think it is probably more of a little endearing chuckle followed by a big smile of a loving Father. His plans are sooooo much better, greater, and truly the only way for us to follow Him and be truly happy. As said in Jeremiah, His plans give us a full, rich and worthwhile life. It is a life where we are successful and not by the standards of the world but by His call to love and serve and glorify Him. It is a life where we can truly live as though we were created to do nothing more than love and be loved.

Figuring out those plans is not always easy especially when we put so much into planning and like me are stubborn and convinced we know best. It takes much discernment.  It can take someone saying, “What are you doing?!” It can take everything lining up perfectly except certain things that we were convinced were never in God’s plan. It takes taking chances, trusting, and letting go of our pride, need for control, and lack of faith.

Yes, I went to live and work in an orphanage. Yes, it changed my life. Yes, it taught me in so very many ways that God’s plans are not ours. Looking back on my discernment process to join the Salesian Lay Missioners 2.5 years ago is when it all started. As my plans went I had to find an African orphanage. There were no other options and that is where I would be for the next year or more. But, when I found the Salesians God lead my heart first to their mission: seeing Christ in the Face of a Child first, and secondly to their specific sites. If you had asked me months before I applied to the program: do you see yourself going to South America? The answer most likely would have been probably not and secondly do you see yourself learning and becoming fluent in Spanish? The answer would have been “forget about it!” I took five years of French because I didn’t want to take Spanish with everyone else. While my friends would speak Spanish in front of me I would plug my ears and wait till they started speaking English again. Well as God likes to laugh at our plans and oh how much patience He has in our stubbornness. I ended up settling (I say that lightly) for an orphanage in Bolivia, where of course Spanish was the spoken language. Some would call it irony, but I call it God. Along with so many other aspects of my life in Bolivia, Spanish is now a part of my identity, my faith, my world, and my future.

From the moment of God leading me to Bolivia until now God taught me over and over that He was in charge and all I need to do was reach out, grab His hand, and let Him follow. My last few months in Bolivia were so very busy and as I started the New York job search, I thought, I’ve lived in an orphanage for the last two years: I can handle graduate school and working full time. I looked for a family that would be flexible, knowing my school schedule. Finally I was contacted by a woman who said my schedule wasn’t a problem for her. Everything seemed to start to fall together and then she started to help me think about my post-Bolivia perfect “plan.” Being in charge of the medical needs of the girls in the orphanage for the last year and a half had got me thinking about my vocation and what God wanted to teach me through this experience. The head sister, Hermana Rosy at one point looked at me and said “I think your work here shows that you might have a vocation in the medical field.” One of the doctors I often worked with told me that he could see God calling me to be a doctor. I thought perfect, the medical field that is where I am heading.

Heading to graduate school to study Child Life (supporting children in the hospitals) still seemed on track with what these wise people were suggesting. But, as I was advised by my future boss to look more into the graduate school I was heading towards things weren’t fitting. Financially, vocationally, and even practically I started doubting. It went from I am going because it’s my plan, to could God have a different plan for me? Should I be a nurse, PA, or even doctor? to ok, well I’ll go for at least a semester, to I’m moving to New York in one week and I don’t think God wants me to be attending this graduate school, to I have no housing but a job and I still believe God has something to show me, teach me, and for me to do in New York. It was a process that went rather quickly and I truly felt like my life and plans were falling apart and my life being turned upside down. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. But, it was also the most freeing realization letting go of the plans I had held onto and letting God show me that He has something so much better for me.

No matter where we are or what we are doing as long as we love and letting God lead us, we are His. We can find Him in any tabernacle of the world, in others we encounter, and in our own hearts. As I journey from one place to the next sometimes I feel that my heart is in so many places. I leave it in Kirkland anytime I leave home, I left it in Africa when I went there in college, I left it at Gonzaga where God formed my heart and led me to many wonderful people, I left it in Bolivia with my girls and the sisters, and so many other places and people that God has blessed me with the chance to encounter. But when I think about that the line “Let your goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee” from the song Come Thou Font of Every Blessing comes to mind. My heart has wandered from place to place, person to person, experience to experience but in His goodness He has always wandered with me. In feeling my heart being torn in many directions I always feel most at peace in Him and through Him home is wherever He is with me. Often we do so much searching in the world especially when it comes to our planning. God calls us to come back to Him, encounter Him in our hearts, and in that see what His plan is. As St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” It is so easy to look in other places for that peace, in our plans, in our ideas, in our activities, etc. But, in the end we can only find that in Him, in His love, and in His plans for our lives.

As I continue on the adventure that God is taking me on I don’t know where He will lead me. I don’t know everything that is in His plan. I never will and that is alright. I choose to let Him bind my wandering heart to His and seek Him with all my heart. I know He has never led me astray before. In fact, His plans have always blown mine out of the water and given me the biggest gifts in my life. Although it’s not easy giving up that control it’s worth it always. He blesses each of us with our own story, our own journey with Him and back to Him. Help us Lord to remember You are in control, to trust in Your plan over ours, and find our home in You.

I Have Called You By Name: You Are (Still) Mine

By Cora Cantata.

If you have, in any way, ever felt rejected, dumped or abandoned by Christ, especially by being asked to walk away from religious life, either by your Superior or by God in your personal discernment, I am writing this blog for you.

He was the One whom you trusted to love you unconditionally, with whom you could be completely vulnerable without ever being told that you are not good enough, was He not? And yet, here you are, confused, alone and broken. I too, have encountered and wrestled with this emotion and brokenness since I left the convent over two years ago. However, after I humbly offered up my woundedness many times, confessing that I felt rejected and even accusing the Lord of abandoning me, He finally got through to me. As I listened, He spoke clearly to my heart a message that has given me great peace and consolation. I now feel convicted to console you and tell you that I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).

I have always felt that my experience of living and leaving religious life was much like Peter experiencing the Transfiguration and saying to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents.” I will stay here, make this my home and my life, here where the presence of your Divinity is so evident and intimate. Likewise the Father responded, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” But Jesus came and touched (me), saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid,” (Matt. 17). Then I was lead down from the mountain and back into the world filled with people who have never experienced this Epiphany, and can not understand the ache of losing that vision, that glimpse into the Divine. However, Christ’s mission could not have finished had they had not left. Furthermore, Jesus did not stay on the mountain while banishing Peter, James and John, but went into the world with them to complete the good work that He began.

As it turned out the Bible verses that spoke to my heart and convicted me to enter religious life had a tendency to add insult to injury after I had left. I feel that it is easy to fall into the temptation of believing that we no longer have a calling. If God really called me to enter the convent, He has since un-called me, changed His mind and “hung up,” so to speak. There is no longer a plan for me. My plot in life is now to float out here in this abyss of unconsecrated singleness. But wait, God says, “For I, the LORD, do not change, and you, sons of Jacob, do not cease to be” (Mal 3:6); “But the plan of the LORD stands forever, the designs of his heart through all generations” (Ps 33:11). This must mean that God never changed His mind or His plan. From all eternity He knew every step we would take. Everything is Divine Providence and we have to trust that it is for our greater good because God is all Good and Holy.

Sometimes He just waits until we settle and believe that we’ve found our place and purpose to take us by the hand and say, “Talitha koum; Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (Mark 5:41). I will allure (you) now; I will lead (you) into the wilderness (Hosea 2:16). Where is the wilderness more wild, more lonely, more bare than in the world where Christ and his followers often go either unnoticed or hated and rejected? However, Jesus encourages us, saying, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you; plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart I will let you find me (Jer 29). Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine, because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you. Fear not, for I am with you. All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them: You are my servant whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that I am he. See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is 43).

See, I am doing something new! He is not un-calling us but calling us to something new, something greater. Religious life may be a higher calling but it is a calling that we cannot call ourselves to. We will only be fulfilled when we submit to our calling. What does it matter if your soul is like a thimble or a cup, so long as it is full? No matter what state in life, career, suffering or joy you are experiencing trust that His love, will, and heart remain the same. Every single day He is present and waiting in the Eucharist, calling, “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come.How beautiful is your love. For you have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes and I thirst, for you,” (ref. Songs &. John 19:28). My sisters, we experienced the Epiphany for a reason and it was meant to transfigure us. We are called to go into the world and reflect the radiance, the joy and the light of a God who’s love is Divine, unconditional and never changing.