I am always a little unsure when I feel like really pouring my heart out to the unseen here. But when the Spirit moves, I do it. I don’t usually know why, but I know when I have the grace to actually write it all out – I should share it.
This past weekend Jason and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. And the whole thing was the most unique and bizarre anniversary experience. I told Jason, I have this little feeling it may stick out in our memories more than many others.
First of all, we were on a very tight budget. So we had nothing specifically planned for the anniversary. No gifts, no trips, nothing. We are still trucking away with our Dave Ramsey debt snowball and some months are harder than others. Secondly, we were really busy. We had planned weeks ago to go see an old friend of ours who is a priest, Fr. Kirby, speak at the Charlotte Catholic Women’s Group on Friday night, and then go out to dinner with him. So I had a babysitter lined up. We had also made plans with some family friends of ours (also many weeks ago) for Saturday afternoon – to come say the rosary with all our families and then have dinner.
The rosary thing was surprising to me even when I heard myself asking my friend if she wanted to do it with us. I grew up in a family that prayed the rosary together every day, and sometimes the old habit of being a teenager hating the drudgery of the rosary we HAD TO SAY still gets to me. I was certainly inspired by my friend Theresa doing family rosaries in her community out in California, with people she is still getting to know ;). And Jason was really uplifted a few months ago when one of our friends from our school invited him and all the other dads in our group to come to his house for a “Rosary and Beer” as men. The fellowship helped Jason a lot, and the prayer time was fruitful.
We had just started having the boys pray a rosary with us during Lent – when we fasted from TV as a family. So! we just randomly decided to reach out to a few family friends of ours to get our kids saying the rosary, in the hopes that it would be more fun for them and make a more lasting impression.
. . .
Anyway. Back to last Friday. I went for a run in the afternoon before picking up Will from school. I was listening to the Bible on my Audible app. It is kind of a random thing that I bought it… I had recently been reminded of my mother listening to the Bible on cassette tapes growing up. My mom knows the Word of God better than anyone I know. She has a scripture verse for every fear, worry, doubt. She would write them out on index cards (and she has the prettiest handwriting!) and send them to me in college whenever I was going through a hard time. She would tell us to “claim” the verses in our prayer.
She also used to remind us that Jesus Himself fought back with the devil not with His own words, but with scripture verses (which of course ARE His words too lol but, still, emphasizes the power of Scripture!).
Something had just nudged me that I should do this. I should learn the Bible as well as my momma learned it. So I picked this one on Audible. I started at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew back in Lent, and for my run on Friday, I was at the Last Supper in John.
I cannot describe how life-changing it is to listen to the Word of God as you go about your busy, humdrum day. I had no idea what it would do for me. I really thought, oh it’ll be “good” for me – as in, good to eat salad with your dinner. I didn’t realize that the simple act of opening my ears and letting the Word of God in, even while I am distracted with other things, would so rapidly begin to change ME.
Here I am, running through pouring sweat, listening to Jesus speak to His best friends at the Last Supper. My heart was stirred listening to Him promise his beloved disciples that He was leaving them, but He would send the Spirit to give them peace, to be their Advocate, to remain with them. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John chapter 14, the whole thing). As often happens when I am driving, cleaning, cooking and listening to the Word, I found myself shooting up a little prayer. This time I prayed: “Yes! Please Jesus, send me and Jason the Spirit! Holy Spirit, come into our lives, set us on fire!”
It wasn’t like a big dramatic moment or anything; it was an almost-involuntary response to hearing Jesus’ passionate words to His apostles.
Then I finished my run, turned off Audible, dashed off to pick up Will, and forgot all about it. The rest of the day was consumed in checking the clock, hurrying all the boys out of the house to the doctor’s office for Will’s well-check, being stuck in traffic, and picking up food to give them for their dinner with the babysitter.
I didn’t even have time to brush my hair. I scrunched some product in it, slipped into an easy dress and sandals, and grabbed my makeup bag to do in the car as Jason and I drove to the church where Fr Kirby was speaking.
We hadn’t seen him in years. The first time I met Fr. Kirby was as a seminarian. He became friends with Jason sometime when he was stationed at a parish in Greenville, and the two of them used to hang out almost every day. Fr. Kirby went to Franciscan for his undergrad, and Rome for his major seminary education. He is a cracklingly charismatic person. He is loud, has crazy facial expressions, and is always, always laughing at himself and everyone else.
He is also intensely passionate about vocations. He helped send me and a bunch of my friends out to the Dominican convent in Nashville for a retreat back when I was in college. He was so contagiously on fire to be around as a young person. And we realized on Friday, even as he has aged (he is a good deal older than us) and we are settled, that is still true today.
His talk really hit home for Jason and I. He specifically pleaded with us to be honest about what is keeping us from being Wholly Disciples of Christ. He said, many of us believers, we say “I am a follower of Christ, BUT…” we each have our list of exceptions. Maybe it’s just one big thing that we don’t want to give over to the Lordship of Jesus. Maybe it’s a bunch of little things that don’t really seem that important. (That’s how it is for me). But we all know deep down what we don’t want to admit is not good for us – even if it isn’t necessarily sinful. If it distracts us from being centered on Christ, it’s a “But”. And as Fulton Sheen said, too many people slide to Hell on their But’s. 😉
Anyway – Fr. was really on fire in his talk. And if you have ever been close with a priest, or seminarian, you will know it is actually harder to be blown away by someone you know well. You know their flaws, you have probably been hurt by their mistakes at least once. You are the least likely to be inspired by them. But Fr. Kirby really inspired both Jason and I. Then we had the privilege of being able to sit and talk with him one on one for dinner afterward. It was so uplifting and, exciting.
He is a pushy guy (which is probably why he was the vocations director for his diocese for years lol), and he really pushed us to come see his church on Sunday – they were having a marian procession, and starting a new boys club, etc etc. We said we might, but it is a pretty long drive – almost 40 minutes.
The next day, our friends came for dinner and a rosary, and it was really special. The kids were so well-behaved, and they played so happily. I found the old rosary videos on Youtube from the Apostolate for Family Consecration that I was raised in. Despite the dreadfulness of the graphics, the kids really loved watching it – it helped them meditate. It ended up being a time of really fruitful fellowship and prayer.
On Sunday, we last minute decided to trek out to Fr. Kirby’s church. We had to drive separately, cause Jason and Will were going to stay after Mass to check out the new Troops of St. George (a boys and dads club) that Fr Kirby was trying to get them to join.
For the long drive with only Becket in the backseat, I listened to worship music [this is my go-to for unassuming, heartfelt, and beautiful praise]. I was distracted by the thought that I had to run that day, and felt a rush of joy that I was finally, once again, addicted to running. After years of stop-and-start, sporadic, noncommittal running, I had hit the groove again and felt locked in to my weekly mileage goals, making steady progress in my training plan.
In the midst of this “distraction”, I had the thought, gosh, how similar this is to my spiritual life for the last few years. I have never given it up completely. I have certainly kept trying, like I had with running. But have I been locked into it, committed, eyes on the prize?
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Cor 9:24
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrew 12:1
If I knew the time I had on earth – like we know with training plans for running a race, I thought, I would surely be more intense about not missing a day or a prayer time, or an opportunity to grow as a disciple. But then I thought about what God has said to us about time – “you shall neither know the day nor the hour”. He wants us to live as if that day could be TODAY.
Mass was beautiful. The homily was powerful – and if you’re interested, you can hear all Fr Kirby’s homilies here. After we came back, Jason and I had a lovely rest of our Sunday together, mutually processing and sharing everything we had each been feeling and thinking. Not surprisingly I guess, Jason had been stirred and re-ignited in the exact same ways. The same earnest burnings to get serious, to stop messing around or being lazy in our spiritual lives, to get to work, to focus everything we have on getting each other and these boys of ours to heaven asap. We had some of the most fruitful time talking Sunday evening that we have ever had.
It wasn’t until that next morning, when Jason apologized for the tenth time for having to go out of town for work on our anniversary (the actual date was on Monday), and for not getting me anything as a gift, that we stopped and thought back on how the whole weekend was an anniversary celebration. A celebration of our sacrament of marriage, our embarking on a vocation together.
Jason pointed out, it was really like a mini retreat. We were convicted, uplifted and inspired. We prayed a lot and we received sacramental grace. Most importantly, we were set on fire again about what we are doing in this vocation, where we are going together.
It was then that I remembered my spontaneous, half-dazed-by-my run prayer to the Holy Spirit on Friday. It was only then that I realized I had received the fastest answer to prayer I may have ever gotten.
We were set on fire. He did not leave us orphans to muddle along in the difficulties of life. He gave me the grace to ask for the Holy Spirit, and then He gave us that gift for our 7th anniversary. [Also- not to sound superstitious, but 7 IS a holy number! ;)]
It is humbling for me to share all of this – I’m still not sure if I should hit publish or not. But y’all, we needed the graces God gave us this weekend. We needed the mini wake-up call. Not because we were doing terribly – I think we were doing really good, actually! We just weren’t on fire – not compared to now.
And if you feel like you are in a patch of dryness, if you relate to my feeling when I compared my spiritual progress with my running the last few years, I have one recommendation: get the Bible on audio!!! Buy it on iTunes if you don’t have Audible. Just start listening to it every day, all the time. In the car, working out, doing laundry. It isn’t just “good for you”, it will change you. Quickly.
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword” – Hebrews 4:12