Posts Tagged With: discernment

Drunk in church & reflecting on my fast

Sunday – 9:00am – In the back seat of the old gray missionary van on the way to communion services in the ranchos – middle of nowhere, Coahuila, Mexico

Trying to write a journal entry in this van is like trying to build a house of cards during an earthquake. Very difficult to do. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it is kinda difficult. 🙂 But as you can see from the title of today’s entry, I got some pretty interesting stuff to talk about and didn’t want it to slip my mind. It also felt really strange yesterday not writing in my journal after having written everyday for the past 40 days. I can kinda see now how writing is therapeutic and can help you make sense of things a little better.

Now just to clear things up, I was not drunk in church, at least not on alcohol. But there was a drunk guy that wandered into Mass. I’m assuming he was a by-product of the concert last night at the Presidencia. Thankfully he was a very quiet and respectful drunk. You could definitely tell he was drunk though. His breathing was loud and labored. His walk and stance were a little bit wobbly. He weaved in and out of the pews a couple of times and had a couple of different seats before he finally settled on the same one for the rest of Mass. He also stomped his foot on the kneeler a few times. Oh, and at the end of Mass he walked up to the front pew and did a little dance too. To the credit of everyone there, they didn’t seem bothered or overly curious, with the exception of some stares by a few kids. What I felt kinda bad about was my initial reaction. I was worried that he’d be a distraction and that he shouldn’t be in Church. Wasn’t it Jesus that said he came to save the lost? Isn’t that one stray sheep just as important as the other 99? So for the rest of Mass I tried to pray for him instead of keeping an eye on him. Figured he could use my prayers more than my judgment.

Now that I’m a couple days removed from my fast I can also do a little bit of looking back on the experience. At this point I’m thinkin’ mainly of two things: guarding my growth and following my heart. When I think about the fast and all the graces I got during the fast, I’m amazed. The graces of chastity, patience, and perseverance are just a few that come to mind. I’m also thinking how awesome it was to have that sacrifice (hunger) to offer up. Now I’m realizing that I have to guard those graces. I have to continue to look to develop them. I’ve got to continue to look for sacrifices to offer up so that I have ammo against my weaknesses and temptations. Maintain the momentum. Yeah, that’s a good way to sum it up.

I’m also thinkin’ about the whole clarity thing, in regards to my mission post. When I started my fast, I was under the assumption that “clarity” meant figuring out which country I wanted to go to. Never did I think  when I started my fast that it might actually mean figuring out whether or not I would even go back into the mission field. What does seem clearer is that I don’t think I’m at peace with going back out into the foreign mission field, at least not at this point in my life. Maybe later in life, once I’m married? Who knows…. My heart is ready to pursue friendship and see what develops. That’s alot easier to do if I’m stateside. Plain and simple, it’s what I want for my life. I believe it’s my calling and so not only do I want to pursue it, I HAVE to pursue it. I also don’t think it would be fair to mission partners and people that we’d be serving if I had a heart divided between missions and marriage. It seems wise to pursue the vocation of marriage with a single, undivided heart, and then whatever else is next will fall into place.

That being said, I pray for those of you who are also discerning your vocation in life, that you would be patient, persevere, and receive clarity and peace. Please pray for me too as I pursue friendship and ultimately marriage. Till next time, take care and God Bless!

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 15

Day 15 – Monday – 10/8/12

Well, I made it through my first two weeks of the fast. I’ve definitely learned and grown alot already; I’ve definitely gained some clarity in my discernment of next year’s mission post. But, there’s still alot of time left in my fast so I’m sure there’s alot more progress to be made. I think this week I will start eating my daily meal at breakfast. Or, I might split my daily meal between breakfast and lunch to see how that works. See how it affects the hunger factor. One of the main reasons for the second option is that with a once daily meal, it’s a little bit bigger than a normal-sized meal for me. I suppose that’s a way to compensate for less meals. Guess that’s ok, as long as i’m not eating a daily meal that’s big enough to be three meals! 🙂 More food = more time to prepare it and eat it. But, after morning prayer I usually have things I like to do before our morning ministry gets started and I don’t know if I’d have time to eat AND do all of that stuff. Ergo, the split-meal idea. I’ll at least try it today and see how it works out.

edit: Tried the split-meal thing and it seems to work ok. But, I think as long as I don’t dilly-dally I can eat a meal all at once. Might try that tomorrow. A meal all at once would also give me more of a hunger feeling later on in the day, that I can offer up. 🙂

Earlier today we did our second to last rancho visits to Santa Ines and Independencia. Let them know that in two weeks would be our last official visit as a mission team before the 2 groups of missionaries arrive in November. At the rancho where I conducted the communion service (Independencia), I had a good chat with the lady who is the unofficial caretaker of the chapel. I’m giving her that honorary title because she is the keeper of the tabernacle keys, and i think she’s one of the few regulars when they pray the rosary in the chapel. She was lamenting the fact that few people show up at the chapel, whether it’s a rosary or a communion service. She specifically mentioned her wish that people would have a hunger for God. HUNGER. This word caught my attention for obvious reasons. It’s the type of hunger that she’s obviously concerned with, and in my fasting i’m realizing that it’s the type of hunger I too should be concerned with. I kinda smiled on the inside when she said that, because knowing that she and a precious few others like her are in that rancho keeping the light of Christ burning, is very comforting. Regardless of the numbers, it’s nice to know as a missionary that the people you serve have a hunger and a thirst for God.

Last but not least, offer up a little prayer for our mission team here. One of the guys was sick last night and this morning, and the other one has been sick today. Praise the Lord I haven’t gotten sick, but I woke up late, and have been in kind of a funk all day. I feel like it might be some kind of spiritual attack. So like I said, prayers please! 🙂

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 7

Day 7 – Sunday – 9/30/12

Last night even after I ate supper and wasn’t hungry anymore, I didn’t have that full feeling. And because I was so accustomed to it before the fast, I was thinking of ways to eat more food. Ultimately I decided against it, feeling like it would defeat one of the purposes of the fast, which is to grow in discipline and self-control.

In regards to my mission post discernment, the only places I can see right now are Spain and The Phillipines. But discernment means being open to other possibilities too. What if there’s another location I haven’t thought of? What if I’m called to return to Big Woods? What if God calls me out of missions? It’s hard to imagine those possibilities but I feel like I have to be open to them too. I also wonder if I should be discerning mission partners or not. Of course I have some ideas, but I guess I’ll focus on the “where” and the “who” will make itself clear.

Another thing I noticed this morning opened my eyes. One of my mission partners, Albert, likes to drink alot of coffee. I noticed this not only because I see him drink gargantuan amounts of the stuff at all times of the day, but also because the bag of Community Coffee that we had been sharing is disappearing quickly. (keyword: HAD) No way it goes that quickly if it’s only me drinking it. So, I brewed another pot this morning and poured myself a cup and Albert one last cup. Once the rest of the coffee cools, I’m gonna pour it into a container labeled “Sid’s Coffee! Do Not Drink!”. That way the coffee will last me as long as possible in October before the group arrives on November 6th-ish.

I’m doing this because my Community Coffee is a piece of home (it’s made in South Louisiana) & I LOVE it! (emphasis on the word LOVE) While I LIKE other types of coffee, I LOVE Community Coffee. When I agreed to share my coffee with Albert, I didn’t realize how much of it he drinks throughout the day. Ergo, no more sharing this precious gift from my mom. I feel like I’m justified in doing this small thing, because we share in other ways. But part of me feels like it might be a tiny bit selfish. That’s the good thing about this fast. It’ll give me a chance to think and pray more about it than I normally would, so that I can learn from it (update: I ended up gifting Albert with a bag of Mexican coffee to get him started. Felt like that kinda helped to balance things out)

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast

Day 4 – Tuesday – 9/27/12

Felt the hunger pangs a little bit more this morning than I did yesterday morning, but nothing intense yet. Headacheyness is gone, so a good night’s sleep did me good. If it comes back today, then I’ll see if it disappears once I eat supper tonight. If it doesn’t, then that’ll be my clue to maybe adjust my level of daily Gatorade intake next week. I think I did a decent job last night of not overstuffing myself. I was slightly fuller than full, but not overstuffed. It’s hard not to overstuff when you’re really hungry and when you know your next meal won’t be for awhile.

I’m also happy that I’m starting to focus more on the mission-post-discernment aspect of my fast, and gaining the clarity that I seek by doing this fast. The two main possibilities that are coming up for mission posts are Spain and The Phillipines. In practical terms, The Phillipines is a more difficult place to go, at least money-wise. This is in spite of the fact that overall it’s a poor country. Expensive because of the plane ticket. Expensive because many things on islands have to be imported and that drives up the cost. And in The Phillipines there will be expenses of house bills too (electricity, water, etc….). Spain, in terms of money and living expenses would actually be slightly cheaper. That’s because the priest we would stay with has a free apartment for us to stay in that is owned by the diocese. As per his words, the only expense would be food and any personal expenses incurred. As a missionary who has always had low funds, this particularly attracts me.

As far as the travel aspect, The Phillipines has a slight advantage. On the way there I would pass through a few countries I’ve never been to. I would also be going to the continent of Asia for the first time in my life (making it my 5th continent to visit). Spain’s travel advantage is that travel within Europe is safe, easy, and cheap. I have no doubt that I’d be able to visit at least a couple different European countries that I’ve never been to. My parents, who love to travel and have enjoyed their visits to Europe, would be much more likely to come visit us there than they would here in Mexico or in The Phillipines. Also, because of the work our priest friend in Spain is involved with (youth), it’s very possible that I would be able to go with their diocese’s group to World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Also, my expenses for that trip would most likely be paid for by father and the diocese. Yet another new country and another new continent. All in all, I think the “travel” factor is almost even between the two, and if it’s God’s will that I go to a mission post then money is not an obstacle for him. Ministry-wise I think what it ultimately boils down to is what will I most be able to give to and benefit from.

In The Phillipines, I would be living and working among the poor, in a ministry environment where you cannot turn down the invitations fast enough because there are so many opportunities. Exhausting yourself in service of the poor, living in a less than comfortable environment, and also BEING poor are some of the benefits and growth opportunities for a missionary there. In Spain, I see the advantage as future preparation. In a sense, you could say that richer people need God just as much as poor people, because of the illusion of self-reliance that comes from a more comfortable lifestyle. Because of this factor, my ministry there would better prepare me for the ministry and lifestyle I would experience once I’m back in the USA at some point in the future. And lemme tell you, if there’s a country that really needs God and conversion, it’s the USA. I would also have the advantage of continuing to develop spanish, my third language. So as you can see, the choices are not easy because both of these options are really good. That’s why I’m fasting and begging for clarity.

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My 40 Day Fast – Day 3

Sid’s 40 Day Fast

Day 3 – Wednesday, 9/26/12

So I think it will be easy to reflect on and focus on the hunger-related aspect of this fast and the corresponding spiritual growth that comes along with it. But my primary purpose for this fast is to gain clarity in my discernment of my mission post for next year. It might take a little while before things start to get clearer. Gotta give it some time. I was wondering about money and the role it will play in that process. If after all is said and done I don’t have the funds, it doesn’t matter what place I discern. No dough, no go. However, I won’t have a chance to do any significant fundraising effort until after the fast is over. So for now I will just assume that God will tell me where he wants me to go, and then at some later point provide me the money to go there! 🙂

Noticed a little earlier today that I was feelin’ a bit headachey. It took me a little while to remember to offer it up as a gift in prayer for my prayer intentions for the fast. I’m not sure if I’m headachey because of the fast, my lack of sleep last night, or the fact that I drink a liter of Gatorade during the day after I have my morning coffee and vitamins. I’ll stay the course on everything I’m doing and make sure I get good sleep tonight. If my headacheyness disappears, problem solved. If not, then I’ll try cutting down to half of a liter of Gatorade daily once next week rolls around. If I’m still headachey, then praise the Lord! I’ll know that I’ll be that way because of the fasting and that I’ll have that additional suffering to offer up every day.

Also wondering if my restlessness last night had anything to do with what I ate/drank or a lack of ministry/physical activity to burn off energy. We’ll see. Still not feeling much hunger pangs, though I think I’m feeling a little more today than yesterday. I did have a SMALL snack this morning as well as the Gatorade I drank during the day. So apparently that small stuff doesn’t prevent me from feeling those minimal hunger pangs. But if they stay minimal, that’ll also be part of my motivation for my changes next week. Within reason, I don’t want this to be too easy. I wanna feel it, you know? Good thing is that I’ll definitely be feelin’ some hunger by the time I receive the Eucharist at Mass. 🙂 And after Mass me, Luis, and Albert are going to Gallo and Rita’s for supper. It’ll be amazingly awesome, without a doubt. We’ll prolly have rice, beans, nopales (cactus), and tortillas. I’m gonna try making dulce-de-membrillos (literally “sweet of membrillos”) using the same recipe Mawmaw Doris gave me for making fig preserves, except that I will substitute membrillos for the figs. FYI, membrillos are about the size of apples, grow here in Mexico, are a little harder than apples, and more sour. We will most certainly be feasting on the food and I look forward to feasting on the fellowship as well!

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Old friendships renewed

Saturday – 4/15/12 – 2:00pm – At Vigie Beach in Castries, St. Lucia

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works.” –Psalm 73:28–

I chose this verse to begin my journal entry because I felt like it perfectly reflects the nature of my work as a missionary. It’s a good reflection of what I also try to do during my Desert Day prayer time. Alot has happened since my last entry. Me & Luis had our first full month alone as a mission team. Overall it was a good experience. Since there were difficulties, alot of which was due to the fact that we are both kinda solitary in our personalities and in our spiritual journeys too. We were also at the beginning stages of growing accustomed to each other, and developing team chemistry. Like I said, we weren’t perfect but we grew alot during that month.

Then we got a huge blessing with the addition of the Alvarez family to our mission team. I was glad to have them because it was too quiet around the house with just the two of us. Having the family there will help to pull us out of our shells too. After the Alvarezes arrived on Monday of Holy Week, we only had two days to get them settled before I headed here to St. Lucia. Got here a whole day later than expected (Holy Saturday) because of bad weather in Dallas earlier in the week. Monsignor Boni’s driver Tate picked me up from the airport and I bought some supplies before arriving at the Marian Home. Went to the Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart in Marchand, and spent Easter Day visiting with Ms. Renee Cenac and her family. 

She’s a friend of ours from when me and the Eckstines lived here last year. The group arrived on Monday and then the fun began. This trip has been really great. We’re plugging into ministries that we developed last year and on our short term trip this past January. Visiting the sick and elderly. Doing a 3 night rally @ Ti Rocher. Feeding the poor with our good friend Auntie Sabi. Getting to reconnect with our friends here has also been really great. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed being with the families that have been on this trip. They’re all from Our Lady of Prompt Succor parish in Alexandria, LA. Some of them have been on previous trips with FMC. They even brought 2 priests with them, Fr. Adam Travis & Fr. Harold Imamshah. Funny thing is that me and Fr. Harold have been facebook friends for at least a year or two before actually meeting. We have alot of mutual connections through youth ministry. 

This whole week the group has been willing to jump in head first and not hesitate to work hard or come out of their comfort zones. I think this willingness is the result of these families being part of a strong, vibrant, loving faith community. After wrap up tonight, we pack up and head out of the Vieux Fort airport tomorrow. James and Theresa head back to Big Woods, the families and priests head home, and I head to Michigan to visit my girlfriend Nina.

I’m simultaneously excited and scared. Excited because she’s awesome and she’s my girlfriend and I haven’t seen her since January 28th. It’ll be really nice to spend an extended period of time visiting with her. But I’m also scared because of the sometimes mysterious and unpredictable nature of relationships and discernment of them. I feel like the best way to discern this relationship is to be honest and open with God, myself, and Nina too. By asking ourselves about the various aspects of the relationship, by being honest about how we feel and what we want, by continually offering up the relationship through prayer, I think these things will ultimately help us to discern whether or not we are called to deepen our relationship.

It’s hard being patient and being open and honest like this. But it’s also the most freeing feeling. It takes any undue pressure off of us and helps us to have the freedom and space we need. Whatever the future holds, I know that God will bless us both and that through this relationship experience we’ll grow closer to Christ.

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On the nature of Love & bein’ a country boy

Monday October 24, 2011 – 7:35am – Office @ Big Woods Mission – Esther, LA

“Learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding, that you may at the same time discern where there is length of days, and life, where there is light for the eyes, and peace.”
–Baruch 3:14–

Last week I started getting the urge to do another journal entry. After all, it’s been over a month. (Where does the time go?) Thought that I’d get a chance Saturday during Desert Day, but I had a good distraction. A friend of FMC who attended our Life In The Spirit Seminar at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Lafayette stopped by. I had been corresponding with him to try and get a copy of Sarah Granger’s talk to him. Tried to get back to journaling later in the day on Saturday, but things kept coming up, and I didn’t wanna force it. Sunday I was gone all day. Caught a ride to 10am Mass in Richard with Kylie so I could hear Sammy and Lindsey give a talk for World Mission Sunday. Stopped at Candyland Cottage in Rayne after Mass, and then Uncle Donald’s after that.

Ok captain, time to land the plane and get to the point. So, two weeks ago, someone close to me told me she was doing a discernment retreat to try and get a handle on what God is saying to her about her next steps on her journey. Being the good influence she is, I was motivated to do one as well. I was discerning both missions and marriage. For missions, I was discerning my next steps for both long-term and short-term mission opportunities. For marriage, I was discerning the who/what/how/when factors. As far as my discernment of missions went, my desire to go to Asia at some point was confirmed. Seeing as how it looks like me and Luis might end up in Costa Rica, my time in Asia is looking like it will be with a short term mission group. I also discerned that if God puts me with a family again next year, that it would be with the Romeros. For short term missions a whole plethora of opportunities popped up. The Phillipines, St. Lucia, Ecuador, and Peru all came up. Already confirmed that I’ll be helping to lead a trip to St. Lucia in January. We’ll see what God does with the other three locations.

As far as the marriage thing goes, you didn’t honestly think I’d give you all the answers to that, did you? 🙂 It’s a private revelation from God sort of thing, where only the people concerned find out. However, I can say that I also did alot of reflecting on friendship and love, and the end of this entry I’ll include some of the nuggets of wisdom God gave to me. The realizations and revelations were a blessing to me and were proof of the Holy Spirit working through prayer.

Living out in the country has been really good for me. Yes, a big part of my season of growth right now has been due to community life. When you are surrounded by good people and a life of prayer, you WILL grow in holiness. But that’s not the only factor. Being surrounded by nature is good for my soul. Living in the peace and quiet instead of the noisy and fast-paced city is good for my soul. Seeing things like rice fields, swampland, horses, cows, pastures, fog, dogs, barbed-wire fences, & birds is good for my soul. Swimming in a muddy pond that is home to the occasional 3-4 foot gator is exhilarating…………….and good for my soul. Burning logs and branches is messy, and good for my soul. Killing wasp nests is good for my soul. Pounding on a pile of rock hard dirt, shoveling it into the back of a truck, dumping it into a hole, filling a wheelbarrow full of horse manure to fill said hole with “fertilizer” so grass can grow and thereby hold the dirt in place, is good for my soul. Riding my bike down a country road and seeing a beautiful oak tree draped with spanish moss is good for my soul. Working and sweating and getting blisters and sore muscles is also good for my soul. I love where God has me at right now. I love that I get to wake up and do this (and other missionary stuff) every day. I think perhaps the singular greatest blessing I’ve received since being back at Big Woods is being able to work with my hands and do manual labor. It has taught me so many things, including obedience AND knowing the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

Lord Jesus, thank you for all of these blessings. Please continue to shower them down upon me. Help me to continue being open to your guidance. Bless us in all our missionary endeavors here at FMC, especially as Mrs. Genie prepares to go to China, and Intake prepares to go to Mexico.

Nuggets of Wisdom from The Holy Spirit about Love:

* be free to love * love unconditionally * draw close to me so that you can draw close to her * take a leap of faith * Friendship is not just a consolation prize, it is love through companionship. And marriage is the fulfillment of friendship * Instead of choosing good over evil because of an ideal, I can now choose good over evil because of someone. When I think in terms of people instead of ideals, love as a choice becomes real, and is easier to make * It should be a give and take, where you can savor the mystery * I need someone who brings out the best in me * I need someone who can bring me out of my shell * If you know the Lord has brought someone into your life, if you know you are drawn to someone because of a mutual love  for the Lord, then do not hesitate to grow close to that person! Do not be afraid that you are “deifying” them or “idolizing” them. Let yourself enjoy them and their company. Let yourself enjoy the love you give and receive. Draw closer to them by drawing closer to the Lord. That person is an instrument of God’s love in your life. To put them off due to a false sense of caution, humility, or discernment is a tragedy. By not putting your heart on the line and loving the person unconditionally, you risk losing out on the greatest treasure in life, LOVE.

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – FINAL DISCERNMENT

12-14-09 continued

It was really good to go and see people I hadn’t seen in awhile (can’t remember the last time I went to Mass there). I was a little sad though cuz the last time I was at Wisdom to venerate the relics of St. Mary Magdalene, I knew the 2009 Intake was there, and it made me sad since they had gone back home to visit family before going into the mission field. I echo Sarah Kate’s sentiment that it’s too quiet w/o all the missionaries being around. But missing them is one of those little signs that tells me I like missions and being around missionaries. 🙂

After I had dinner with some Wisdom peeps after Mass, I went to Zea’s where some coreteam peeps had dinner after 6pm Mass at Cathedral. Sarah Kate was there so I got another opportunity to talk missions with her. Nothing new really, but like I said earlier, getting to talk about missions with anybody, especially another person who is into missions, is good stuff. Talked a little bit about her goin to Spain, about mutual friends of ours who are in mission or who might be going into missions. Fast forward to this morning, I had an epiphany while I was taking a shower that I think Lent will be my final period of discernment, and that unless God makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want me to enter Intake 2010, then by Easter I will have made my final decision. Seems right that I have that final deadline. I think it will help me to make a decision and stick with it. It’ll also help me to give my family and friends a final decision instead of me continuing to be in a state of “maybe I will, maybe I won’t”. Lord, give me the grace to face this day, to fall more deeply in love with you, and to be Christ to those I meet. God Bless!

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MISSIONARY JOURNAL – MENDING FROM BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS

This first part of my 12/14 entry is 1 of 2 pages. Some of it may not seem like it has anything to do with my missionary journal, but i can assure you, anything that has anything to do with my personal growth (or lack thereof) is relevant to my missionary journey. Also, NAMES have been omitted to protect the privacy of others.

12-14-09 Monday / 6:15am @ CC’s Coffee on Johnston St

News to report! For the first time since we broke up back in the end of July, me and (name omitted) actually talked on the phone for at least 15 minutes and had a real conversation. It was a really huge blessing for me. Just knowing that we could talk as friends and knowing that life was treating her good was a good thing for me. The low points of the conversation were A) if felt at times a bit awkward and forced b/c it had been so long since we had talk and b/c the last time we talked for more than 30 seconds on the phone was when we had the “break-up” phone call, & B) I realized I’m still getting over her. It’s not like I WANT to not get over her, it’s not like i WANT to wallow in self-pity and regret. I truly don’t.

I want to recognize the blessing that it was and be able to move on. Sometimes I even feel like I idolize this problem (as I’ve done with other problems) by focusing so much on this “being unhealed” and struggling with it, that instead of receiving healing and moving on I end up using it (the struggle) as a way to hold on.

Back to positives, she asked again about my discernment of joining FMC for Intake 2010. It felt good to have a friend ask about me going into missions. Not to sound egocentric, but I love the opportunity to talk about it and share with others. It helps me to get excited and also by talking about it, it helps me to further discern and evaluate. The main points I touched upon were that A) I didn’t want to work at the shop and take it over, and B) going away on missions would help me to let go in faith and trust that God, on his time, will bless me with the desires of my heart. Last night we didn’t have a lifeteen meeting, and since I had seen my fellow coreteam members Friday and Saturday night for the Christmas parties, I decided to go to 6pm Mass at Wisdom.

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