As some of you know, I actually applied to enter the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother last year. My plan was to enter in August of 2015. However, God had different plans and I was asked to delay my entrance. This year of waiting has been difficult, but I have learned so much and I wanted to share a few of the big things:
I learned how to trust God on a deeper level. When all of my plans were completely flipped around I either had to choose to trust that God knew what He was doing or become bitter.
I went from having my whole life planned out to not knowing what I was going to do tomorrow, from being in charge of an entire youth group and working full time at a parish to working part time in retail. I had to learn how to rely on the Lord and to find Him in the little things which helped me when humility was forced upon me.
3. Community is key
One of the only ways I was able to make it through those first couple months was by leaning on my friends. They reminded me that this journey to Heaven isn’t meant to be walked alone. They called me, and still do, to be better, to trust more, to pray more. They reminded me of God’s goodness and love. They listened to me rant about not knowing what to do. They let me hang out with them, more than they probably wanted to, so I could get my mind off of everything.
First was learning how to be patient with God. He didn’t reveal His plan to me for a long time. I had to learn how to trust that He was going to. I also had to learn how to patient with other people, who didn’t understand why I was asked to wait, who didn’t know why I was only working part time, who just couldn’t figure out my life. Finally, I had to learn how to be patient with myself. Being asked to wait hit me really hard and I had to be patient with myself to let myself heal and come back to the Lord.
5. Spiritual Motherhood
Not a term typically used by an almost 24 year old, but this year has taught me so much about spiritual motherhood, more than two years as a youth minister taught me. I realized that it’s not always obvious who we’re supposed to love. I learned how to move past judgements and fears to really love people just for who they are, not for what they were going to give me or expecting them to change. This realization brought so many amazing people into my life who I never would have met otherwise and who I couldn’t imagine my life without.
6. I am loved
I knew before this year that I was loved, but I’ve come to a new level of understanding. I am loved by God, no matter what I do or don’t do. I am loved by my family. I am loved by my friends, old and new. With more time my friends and family were able to process my decision and realize the weight of it all. I’ve been surprised every day by people who tell me they will miss me or that I effected their life in some way or another. Before this year, I really saw myself as unnoticeable. I didn’t think many people cared or even thought of me. How wrong I was and how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to realize how loved I am.
7. How to let go
A lot of what I’ve been doing is letting go of this life I’ve been living, letting go of control. But it’s also been about letting go of people. Learning how to roll with the punches. Really understanding what it means to let go and let God. Particularly when it came to my Grandma. I learned and am still learning how to let God take care of people when I can’t be with them anymore.
8. Prayer is powerful
It really changes everything. Not every prayer I prayed in this year has been answered in the way I wanted. To be honest, most haven’t. But prayer changes me. It helps me to see things through God’s eyes and realize He always provides. And in a special way, I’ve learned how praying for other people can bring you closer to them even if you don’t always get to see them.
This year has challenged me to the core. There were weeks where I didn’t want to pray or go to Mass. But I knew that I had to. Being a disciple is less about feelings and more about commitment. I learned not to give up when I feel abandoned and how to rest in the Father’s arms even when I can’t feel Him there.
10. It’s okay to be vulnerable
I’ve always been someone who keeps my feelings to myself. But throughout this year I’ve been pushed to share more, to express more and it’s amazing what a difference it makes. Problems get a lot lighter when they are shared and more often than not, the people you’re sharing with have had similar experiences and can offer advice or learn from what you’re going through.
I can’t imagine a year ago being able to nonchalantly tell someone I want to be a nun. But I do almost every day, or am at least confronted with questions about it. It used to freak me out, but now I love those conversations. It took a few people really pushing me, but I finally realized that it’s okay to be confident in my decision.
12. How to communicate
I’ve realized how to better explain my faith. Encountering non-Catholics on a daily basis has helped me learn how to articulate my beliefs and how to think on my feet. But more than that, it’s helped me realize that so much of evangelizing is about building relationships with people first, loving them with Christ’s love. Faith is first about encounter the rest follows.
In this year my heart has expanded so much more than I thought possible. As St. Augustine says, “Simply by making us wait God increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us.” I’ve been given the gift of amazing people who I love and who love me. Every day I am filled with so much gratitude for this life and also for God’s love and mercy. The Lord has been so patient with me, letting me take my time to get to a point where I am ready to follow Him. I needed this extra year. My desire to love has increased so much and in that my desire for the Lord and to do His will, to love His people. God uses everything in this life to form us, the good and the bad. Sometimes we might feel like we are forced into a situation that has no happy ending, but trust me, it does, just not the one you were expecting. Trust in the Lord. He is faithful. He is with you. He has a plan for your life and it is so good.