Where is God When I’m Stressed?

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

Accumulating Stress
If you want the answer to the question in the title of this blog post, then it’s written above in the cited Bible verse. If you’d like to hear my personal testimony, then read on.

I start out the semester feeling good about myself. I mentally and physically prepare myself for my classes that only increase in rigor. I discuss my dual major course load with my friends and they tell me I’m insane. But that doesn’t matter because I’m used to being busy and at least for now I’m sitting pretty. I know how to work hard for my grades and when the going gets tough, I stay tougher.

Eventually, the stress accumulates until my life snowballs into chaos. Assignments stack up until my planner is filled with due dates and exams and every day is filled with things to do and study. I wish there was more time in the day for me to complete my work as well as I would like to while also being fully present at my meetings, at rehearsal, at Mass, and in prayer. This downward spiral often comes with messed up sleeping and eating schedules, irritability, and depression. These are the lows that I hide surprisingly well by being semi-honest about the stress I’m under and keeping the guise that I have it all together.

Where is God When I'm Stressed
Where is God When I’m Stressed

When Stress Stunts Growth
These are the times when I get into my so-called faith slumps. I feel distant from God and when I’m under pressure and stress or when I’m struggling or suffering, I wonder where he is. But the thing is, he’s still there right beside me. God never abandons any of his children. When I’m in a tough place, he still desires to embrace me and invites me lean on him. He’s always ready to catch me when I fall and love me, but I have to do my part too.

For me, it’s easy to forget to pray when I have a lot on my plate. When I have an exam to study for and when a paper’s due date is right around the corner, I push prayer to the back burner. While God is calling me to be a student and the work that I’m doing now is good, I can’t neglect my relationship with him. I don’t skip prayer because it isn’t important to me or I don’t feel like praying. I feel guilty when I let myself get caught up in my studies. But I find that when I have several tasks that need to be done immediately, even the smallest amount of time that I take to pray refreshes me, calms my mind, and reminds me that my heavenly father is right beside me. He takes such good care of me, but I need to let him.

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Surrendering the Stress
As I write this blog post, I’m in the middle of my senior year. I’m holding leadership positions at the Newman Center and in one of my honors societies. To top it off, I’m applying to graduate schools, which is a beast in and of itself. As my days get increasingly difficult, I surrender my stress to my Heavenly Father. When I get overwhelmed, I remind God that I cannot do anything without him. I plead for his help in all that I do, and he certainly provides. I thank him and I praise him for taking me this far, and I trust that he has a beautiful plan for my life.

A Prayer for Dealing with Stress
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for your incessant presence with me through the bad days as well as the good. During my moments of hopelessness as I drown in my stress, be my refuge and show me to inhale the peace that only you can offer. Give me the grace to reach out and run towards you when I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed. Remind me that I am your child and you love me endlessly. Amen

Stay radiant!

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Holy Hour How-To’s

When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:40-41

Meeting Jesus on Mission
I was probably in second grade when I first witnessed Christ present in the Eucharist during Adoration. I still gaze at him with childlike awe when I adore him. He’s absolutely radiant in the monstrance.

Although I’ve prayed in Adoration numerous times, I prayed my first holy hour only about a year and a half ago. When I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua, I was blessed to pray a holy hour with my mission team every evening in a beautiful chapel before the blessed sacrament. I was uncomfortable at first because I’ve never sat still to pray for a whole hour before, but during my first holy hour, as I got lost in Jesus gazing at me through the monstrance, I heard a voice in my heart.

“Don’t be afraid to hear my voice,” it said.

At that moment, I allowed myself to be vulnerable with God. I ran to him as his daughter and I let him embrace me. During that mission trip, I spent my holy hours reflecting on the blessings that each day brought. I talked to God, writing little letters to him in my mission trip journal, and I humbly asked him to guide me and make me an instrument of his love.

Holy Hour How-To's

Holy Hours on Campus
After my mission trip, I did my best to continue praying holy hours. It’s definitely easier when I’m on campus and I can pray in the Newman Center. I’m a little spoiled because I can pray either in the big chapel where we have Mass or in the little Adoration chapel almost any time. Someday I hope to be able to pray a holy hour every day like I did in Nicaragua. For now, I’m growing in holiness by praying a holy hour at least once a week in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

My holy hours won’t look the same as yours, but these are a few tips that have helped me pray my holy hours wholeheartedly.

Tips and Tricks for Your Holy Hours
Come with an intention. Whether your intention is a specific prayer intention, or you plan to pray the rosary or Lectio Divina, come to your holy hour with something specific to do. Sometimes it’s fruitful to sit and be with Jesus, but I find that it’s helpful to have at least one thing to do during a holy hour.

Be vulnerable. If you give God an inch, he will certainly take a mile. Your holy hour is your time to grow in your relationship with God, so don’t be afraid to open up to him like you would open up to a close friend. Share your joys, your fears, your struggles, your tears and you’ll feel God working within you.

Try new things. If your prayer life is becoming stale, don’t be afraid to try something new. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and help you pray. If a the desire to try a new way to pray is on your heart, it could be the Holy Spirit helping you grow closer to the Father. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy if you need a break from the rosary. Read a book in the Bible that you aren’t very familiar with. There are so many ways to pray, and a holy hour is a good time to discover them.

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Write. I use a prayer journal from time to time to write down my prayer intentions that I want to remember and return to. It also helps me to write down my prayers as I pray them and re-read them. I highly recommend this as a way of being very intentional about praying (no pun intended).

Just keep praying. If you feel your mind wander during your holy hour, turn back to God. If you don’t feel like praying, tell God how you’re feeling. If you don’t know what to do, enjoy the stillness with God until something comes to you.

Have a beautiful, fruitful holy hour!

Stay radiant!

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Comparing Flowers

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1

Comparing Dancers
I got into the habit of comparing myself to others when I was in high school. At my dance studio, I would compare myself to other dancers during almost every class. Instead of taking class to improve in my own technique and artistry, I tried in vain to dance like another girl. Of course, this would never work, and I would feel disappointed in myself for not looking like, dancing like, or being like another dancer.

I know now that it broke my Heavenly Father’s heart when I did this.

Comparing Flowers
Comparing Flowers: Why Jesus Doesn’t Want Us to Compare Ourselves to Others

Learning from Flowers and St. Thérèse
Although I still fall into this bad habit from time to time, I don’t compare myself to others as often as I used to. Because of that, I’m a happier person, and I have a healthier relationship with God because now I love how he made me. I like to use this analogy when I think about comparing myself to others:

A lily and a daisy are blooming in the same garden. The daisy tells the lily “I love your petals!” The lily graciously thanks the daisy for her compliment. ” I wish my petals were as beautiful as yours,” the daisy says with a sigh. “We’re different flowers, Daisy!” says the lily, “We’re not supposed to look like each other because our differences make us beautiful and special!”

According to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “The splendor of the rose and whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realized that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

The little flower knew that she was unique. As much as she wanted to do great things and be a missionary, she recognized that she could do little things with great love. She knew that God created us beautifully in different ways, he has different but good plans for each of us. We can be a Saint no matter where or who we are simply because our Heavenly Father wants us to be a Saint. I love to look to St. Thérèse and remember that I’m the Lord’s beloved exactly as I am.

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Understanding Your Individual Beauty and Worth
God didn’t create you or me to be a carbon copy of everyone else. He purposefully made each of his children different because they each have a unique and important role to play in his plan. I’ll never be like the girls that I compared myself to because God has plans for them that only they can fulfill. Furthermore, no one else will ever be like me because God intended for only one of me to exist. After realizing this, I began to see my individual beauty and worth as a daughter of God.

Instead of comparing yourself to someone else, try to see yourself the way that the Lord sees you. Begin to understand that you have a purpose that no one else can fulfill, and thank God for making you and loving you as one of his beloved children.

In fact, there is only one person who we should strive to imitate, and that is Jesus Christ.

Stay radiant!

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How I Started to Love Mary as my Mother

“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name.'”

Luke 1:46-49

Growing Closer to Mary
Because I’m a “cradle Catholic,” I’ve always loved Mary, but that love was often subconscious. I didn’t always intentionally love Mary and work on my relationship with her. It wasn’t until recently that my relationship with her became more genuine. It wasn’t until last year that I truly understood that she is my Heavenly Mother. Ever since then, I’ve been closer to her and I turn to her more often for help and to guide me to her Son.

How I Started to Love Mary as my Mother
How I Started to Love Mary as my Mother

Marian Consecration and Fiat 40
Last year, several girl friends of mine from the Newman Center completed the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration. I did my best, but because of stress from school and my personal life, I couldn’t keep up with the daily readings. I opted to complete my consecration later. Although I didn’t complete my Marian Consecration, I don’t consider this a faith life failure. As I learned more about Mary, her role in the Church, and how so many Saints cherished her, I became inspired to turn to her more. I learned that the best way to reach Jesus is to go through Mary, so like children depend on their mothers, I became more dependent on Mary.

UPDATE: I made my Marian Consecration on January 1, 2020, the Feast Day of Mary, Mother of God! Read more about how my consecration changed me in A Glorious New Morning!

Last Lent, several ladies from the Newman Center and I participated in Fiat 40, a huge Lenten sacrifice which challenges women to glorify God in body, mind, and soul. As Lent progressed, Fiat became more and more difficult for me. I missed going on social media, I craved sugary Starbuck’s drinks, and I experienced something of a faith burnout. I was looking forward for Lent to be over not because I was excited for Easter, but because I wanted Fiat to be over. Although Fiat was definitely overwhelming for me, it wasn’t a complete failure. I still grew so much closer to Mary during this time. I understood the beauty of surrendering to God’s will and giving a complete “yes” to him without reserving anything.

UPDATE: Read about my experience through Fiat 90 in these blog posts! “Let it Be Done:” Why I’m Doing Fiat 90 and Fiat 90 Follow-Up!

The Most Perfect “Yes”
During Fiat, the Newman Center ladies and I did several Bible Studies and Lectio Divina sessions on the Annunciation and the Visitation. I remember us talking about the courage that she had to say “yes” to God’s plan for her, and how she did it so beautifully.

“And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.'”

Luke 1:38

How vulnerable and how trusting she was to let God’s plan for her come to fruition. Her “yes” has allowed all generations to call her blessed, but she in her humility and grace always reflects the glory to her beloved Son.

Saying “yes” to becoming the mother of God lead to Mary enduring unfathomable joys and sorrows that we still meditate on today. We try to grasp these mysteries, and as we wrap our heads around them as much as we’re able, she gives us the grace to understand them and helps us to grow in holiness. She sees our desire to love her and her Son more, and she happily grants us this intention because that’s her mission and she does it perfectly.

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31-Day Rosary Challenge
Because October is Mary’s month, I’ve decided to do a 31 day rosary challenge! The rosary is the most powerful prayer in the Catholic Church, and our Blessed Mother loves to hear her children say a Hail Mary. I invite you to join me on this challenge and go to Jesus through Mary with me. Because this post was published a few days into October, I’m already a few days into the rosary challenge, but just pick up where you are if you want to start! Turn to Mama Mary with all of your joys, your sufferings, your fears, and your questions and she’ll embrace you and wrap you in her mantle. She longs to bring us closer to Jesus. She’s just waiting for you to say “Hail Mary…”

Stay radiant!

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It’s the Little Ways: A Reflection for St. Therese of Lisieux’s Feast Day

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Little Things with Great Love
Today is the feast day of one of my favorite Saints, St. Thérèse of Lisieux! She always reminds me that you don’t have to do great things to be a great Saint. She entered a convent when she was a teenager and died when she was 24. The “Little Flower” teaches us that we can serve God in the littlest things that we do, as long as we do them with great love…

…but I forget this a lot.

Great Things Aren’t Always Great
I always keep myself busy with classes, rehearsals, meetings, homework, and more. There’s always a dozen things on my to do list, and because I rarely complete everything that I want to get done in a day, I get frustrated with myself.

I feel defeated when I forget to pray. I convince myself that if I don’t make it to daily Mass, or do a Holy Hour in the adoration chapel, or pray a Rosary, then I didn’t do enough for God that day. Fortunately, St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds me that this isn’t the case.

It's the Little Ways
It’s the Little Ways: a Reflection for St. Therese of Lisieux’s Feast Day

Loving Him Like Little Children
Although the big things are nice, our Heavenly Father delights just as much in the little things that we do for him. St. Thérèse of Lisieux shows me to how depend on and turn to the Father with childlike love.

I recently began turning to God as soon as I wake up in the morning. I tell Him that I won’t make it through the day without Him, and I ask Him to help me and be with me in all that I do throughout the day. I turn to Him with a “Thank you, God!” when I’m spending time with my friends, and I pray “God, please help me!” when I get frustrated with an assignment. When someone comes to me with a prayer intention, I immediately pray a quick “God, please be with [name],” and I’ll also be more likely to write it down in my prayer journal and remember during a Holy Hour or a Rosary.

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Taking the Opportunities to Love in Little Ways
As we remember and celebrate St. Thérèse of Lisieux today, find ways to love God and your neighbors. Like she states in the quote at the beginning of this blog, there are so many things that we can do to love each other, and we can put so much love into everything we do. Don’t be afraid to give someone a smile and a kind word. You never know how much they might need it. Don’t hesitate to ask someone how you can pray for them. They might need your prayers but don’t know how to ask you. Don’t think twice about doing a favor or an act of service for someone.

Serving God and our brothers and sisters in Christ in the littlest ways surely adds up. St. Thérèse, the little flower shows us that the little things we do will lead us to holiness and sainthood.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us.

Stay radiant!

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Being Thankful When the Answer is “No.”

“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

I was certain I knew what God’s will for my life was.

For about a year and a half, I thought I knew what God wanted me to do with my life. After hearing His call so often and after so much time in prayer and talking to so many loved ones about it, I thought I knew God’s plan for me.

Being Thankful When the Answer is No
Being Thankful When the Answer is No

On a FOCUS mission trip to Nicaragua in March 2018, I first heard God call me to be a missionary. I kept praying about it and talking to the missionaries at SRU about it, and when I went to SEEK 2019 in Indianapolis, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that God was calling me to be a FOCUS missionary. It made perfect sense to me because of my great capacity to love and my desire to bring people to God. I could already imagine myself on a college campus meeting students and embracing them in authentic friendship. I would go to Mass with them, lead a Bible study, and light so many hearts on fire for God.

This was how I was going to do God’s will. When I told my friends and some of my family that I wanted to be a FOCUS missionary, they all affirmed that I’d be a great missionary. This path made sense for me.

I filled out my application and asked some of the FOCUS missionaries at SRU to help me with it. I spent hours making sure that it was what FOCUS wanted to see without compromising my authentic self. I submitted it with excitement, and one week later, I got an email from FOCUS.

They were not going to interview me.

It took me a minute to process that I wasn’t going to Recruitment Weekend. I wasn’t even getting a screening call. They decided not to continue with my application at all. I felt the strangest mix of emotions. I felt shattered, cheated, indifferent.

After I got that email, I sat in the chapel in the Newman Center for the longest time. I sat and gazed at the crucifix above the tabernacle not quite thinking anything but still trying to organize my thoughts. I came to God with all of my feelings of betrayal, disappointment, rage, and indifference. Finally, I bowed my head and said, “God, I thank you that FOCUS said ‘No.'”

That’s when a wave of peace that only He can give rushed over me.

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I realized that hearing “no” doesn’t mean that I’m not good enough. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never be a missionary. It doesn’t mean that I’m not holy or I won’t be a Saint or I’m not a beloved daughter of God. Hearing “no” means that God has even better plans for my future. He didn’t place FOCUS missionaries in my life or send me to Nicaragua or SEEK to get my hopes up. God doesn’t show us gold and then give us silver. By my Baptism, God wants me to be a missionary, but not a FOCUS missionary.

There’s another mission that God will send me on according to his perfect timing, and it’ll be the one that God created me to do. Hearing “no” doesn’t shake my trust in my Heavenly Father at all. During times like these, I find comfort in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.'” I’m secure in knowing that He has beautiful plans for my life, and I’ll continue praising Him as I wait for Him to reveal them to me.

Stay radiant!

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