Tag Archives: Surrender

What I’ve Learned About Prayer

Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous. When you have God, you don’t have to know everything about it; you just do it.”
― Mother Angelica

I had just made the move south to Cajun country Louisiana a few years ago. After attending a political event with my new ‘work’ family, with it getting late and a half-hour drive still ahead of me, my Boss invited me to stay over at her family’s home. Since I didn’t have any of my things with me, she made sure I had what I needed to settle in for the night. Without a contact lens case, she gave me two drinking glasses and some contact solution. I washed up, left my cup o’ lenses in the office, and settled in their country home for the night.

In the morning, she was making breakfast when I awoke. As I headed in to take a shower after we ate, I quickly mentioned that I left my contacts in the home office. Turns out I should’ve been a little more deliberate about that statement, as the cups were gone when I returned.

Half-blindly, I moved towards the kitchen, where she was dunking dishes in her soapy water-filled sink to load into the dishwasher. I think I asked her if she had seen my lenses probably around the time that she put a couple of small glasses in the top rack.

Her face dropped, and she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize what you meant about the glasses! I just rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher! I’m so sorry!”

As I felt my way over to her, with her profuse apologies, I assured her it was going to be ok. We proceeded to do the two woman-hunt for those small, clear objects that love never to be found once they’ve fallen from your fingertip. We searched and searched…nothing.

It was time to call in the big guns: St. Anthony. We asked for his help, and I promised him if he helped me find my contacts, I’d share my story with others.

Standing by the sink, we had both been feeling around in the dirty dish water for sometime. She turned to me and said, “In faith, I feel like we’re supposed to take the plug out of the drain. I know it sounds crazy, but…”

If I had thought about it, I would’ve hesitated, and logically I would’ve explained our way out of it. But, the preface was IN FAITH. So, as I went to pull the stopper out of the drain, I felt something. There IT is – one little contact stuck to my hand. What?!

Moving to do it again, boom, the other contact lens. We both were giddy.

Prayer can feel at times like you’re reaching into a murky mess, feeling around, searching for that answer. Maybe it has been for 10-minutes, or maybe it has been for 10-years — when you feel like you keep sending out an SOS signal and nobody is responding or seeing it.

That’s a lie. No prayer goes unnoticed or is unimportant to God. He doesn’t have selective hearing to tune you out with, nor does He make you feel like you’re not a priority because there’s bigger problems in the world. We need to be cautious not to ascribe our humanness to God’s Divinity.

As we prepare for Lent, there are some good reminders I’m receiving. Prayer requires a few things that are really hard, for me too: Faith, patience, and surrender.

StThereseQuote

My Dad would gently remind me in some prime moments of stubbornness: “You’re praying and asking God to do things, and then as He does, you’re saying, ‘No, not that way, like this.'”

Prayer requires our faith to ask it, our patient hope to wait upon it, and our surrender as to how He will answer it. And there is an answer EVERY time – whether it be no, yes, not yet. As many times as I’ve been through this, I still am amazed that nearly 10 times out of 10 it is never how you imagined and in the end better than you could’ve planned.

It may look and feel ridiculous at times — especially as you surrender to remove the drain that you feel is holding everything together. But what’s the alternative: To be blind and keep doing what hasn’t been working?

P.S. Don’t ever wash your lenses with dirty dishwater. Never. Ever.

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Story of A Soul

Today marks the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, a young French Carmelite, who has profoundly shaped my spirituality.

StThereseQuote

Since I’ve written several posts in the past about Therese, creating this graphic was a new way to honor such a beautiful soul. Last night I opened “Story of a Soul”, her autobiography, and out of the many underlined and bookmarked pages, I was captured by this simple reminder.

Our daily life and work often is teeming with demands. It is action oriented and results-driven: “Go big or go home,” right?! The challenge is not to approach our spiritual life in the same manner. God does not ask us to prove ourselves to him, or perform great actions to gain His approval or reward. Therese simply relates to bring it back to “surrender and gratitude”. It’s speaking to my heart right now – what about yours?

There’s great freedom and refreshment in receiving that kind of Love.

Read my earlier posts on the Little Flower, which were daily reflections during the Novena to St. Therese:

– A Test of Faith

– Happy Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

– Loving Our Littleness

A Heavenly Shower of Roses

True Love

Victim of Love

The Power of Prayer

– On her profound autobiography, Story of a Soul.

– On another of my favorite books on her spirituality, I Believe in Love

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Serenity: The other Half of the Story

I take it by now that everyone is pretty familiar with the Serenity Prayer, right? You know:

This prayer is attributed to a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and often is associated with many 12-step programs.  Looking at the original prayer, most of us don’t realize that we are only familiar with the first half.  The rest of it is:

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
AMEN.

I think so many people relate to this prayer because it directly speaks to the areas that we struggle with the most:

ACCEPTANCE

SURRENDER

TRUST

Amidst the political brouhaha of today — such as this weeks CEOs of Chick-Fil-A vs. Amazon and the like, the part that particularly speaks to me is:

“Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.”

I am thankful for the promise that He will make all things right, because people of faith really need to hold onto that right about now.  So God, I’m gonna keep trying to work on my part of acceptance, surrender, and trust and let you work on Yours.  Oh, and thanks in advance for always forgiving me the many times that I fall short!

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After the Loss…a Brief Update

Okay, so it’s not just me, right?  I’m just gonna put it out there.  It’s not meant to be a vent, but more of an observation – so please read it through that “lens” if you will.

Sometimes it can be either a blessing or a pain to try and give a true answer to the standard American greeting, “How are you doing?” Especially when it has just been “one of those days”, and the inquiry is paired with a concerned scrunch of the brow, a shoulder rub, and a knowledge that your Mother recently passed away and you’re trying to plan a wedding about 3-months-and-8-hours-south-of-my-current-locale away.  But then if people don’t acknowledge it, it feels like, “Why aren’t they saying anything about that smelly, fat elephant in the room?”  Ugh, let’s simplify it, let me share with you here the latest and not so greatest, but real deal answer.

Honestly, friends, it can be a moment-by-moment or day-by-day fluctuating thing. Mom went back home to Jesus only 7 short weeks ago.  Mike and I left my grieving Father and came back to Dallas about 3 1/2 weeks ago.  It’s obviously still very fresh, mainly uncharted territory, stumbling along on the vast tundra of grieving.  Even though I don’t see the end in sight, and I don’t know when the ache will lessen, I know that she is eternally happy and where she is supposed to be.  That knowledge doesn’t dull the heartbreak, it just puts it into an eternal perspective that can bring peace.

My Mom was a fantastic Mother, and it’s still hard to be at peace with the fact that she won’t physically be present at our wedding…holding the children we hope to have…helping me pick out color schemes for our future home…etc.  Of course I know that she is with me and no longer bound by space and time, among the Saints specially interceding for me and all of our needs.  Some days that is a comfort, and some days it still makes me weep, to be completely honest for those who have been wondering how I’m doing.

The more I travel along this part of my journey, the more that I discover what a tricky thing grieving is.  I can talk and laugh about a memory of Mom one night, and the next morning I can bust into tears at the thought of shopping for Bridesmaids dresses without her.  But I love a conversation that I was blessed by this week, with a Nun that I have never met up in New York.

I had that blessed conversation via phone with this Religious Sister about work-related things; and before I knew it, we began sharing from our hearts.  I confessed that my Mother had recently passed  away, and she began to comfort me by just being herself.  She had such a beautiful spirit…I could even tell that through the phone.  Her words of compassion, based on experience from losing her Mom, and filled with wisdom, brought such love to my little wounded heart.  God continues to show me that even though I can’t imagine where He will send blessings to me from, He still does.  It can be a total “stranger” or a trusted friend, and anyone in between.

I am still navigating through this, but learning how to better utilize the tools I’ve been given, and to lean into an incredible support system all around me.  By God’s grace, we will continue to move forward.  It has been a long and hard week for me, I won’t say that it wasn’t.  The wedding planning is still slow and ardous right now, wrestling with vendors and what not to get some of the major decisions nailed down.  There is tons of new ground work being laid in every single area of my life, all at once.  Yes, I get overwhelmed at times.  All I know is that I am in good hands.  That much I know.  Oh, and I also know that God will not lead me into something that will be detrimental to me – He wants good things for me, as His child.

Thank you again for asking how I am, whether it be via email, Facebook, text, a card, or through your prayers – please don’t stop.  Just realize that one day I might smile and say, “good”, while the next I may give a little more melancholic expression with a, “hanging in there.”  I truly am a mix of both my parents, with the smiling-optimistic Mom part of me, and the more passionate-melancholic side from my Dad.  Thank you, God, for finally sending me a man who can truly handle both my ying and my yang, and still loves me because of them, not despite them.

The real key to all of this is said so perfectly in this Matt Maher song.  I found this video on YouTube – the editing may appear a little rough in some spots, and the song, “Letting Go”, is longer and even more meaningful; but the horses have a lot of significance for me and it’s a beautiful short.

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Our Angel

But He said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

This passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has come to me so many times in my life.  As my mother still lays dying, simply awaiting the birth of her Grandchild, Jacob, (more on that later) I am grasping this profound scripture on a whole new level.

Many people have told my Mom throughout her 2 battles with Cancer that she is an inspiration.  She would tell you, “I’m just me.”  My sweet Mom did not feel like she was stronger, most definitely not more “heroic” then any other person fighting for life — she was simply doing ‘what needed to be done’ to sustain the life she so desperately wanted to still share with us that know and love her.  Yet, she is a hero to many–I told her last night that she was mine–for leading a life uncommon and leaving a legacy of love that will continue to be passed on from generation to generation in her honor.  In a world fraught with so many problems, tragedies, persecutions, etc…a beautiful, pure, light such as my Mom seems so rare, and thus that more precious.

As for me, I first learned love and truth from my earthly parents – and I thank them for the beautiful example they have set.  Not perfect, as no one is except in Heaven, but as good as they could possibly try to be.  And as I continue to receive so many beautiful messages for Mom, my family, and myself, about how the love we have given has made even a small difference in someone’s life, well, it is extremely humbling.  Mom always believed in treating people the way you wanted to be treated.  How drastically would this world change if people actually followed that “Golden Rule”, based on the premise that they actually love themselves in an ordered way and know also how to carry themselves with dignity?

Back to St. Paul, I know more about weakness then strength.  I read kind and thoughtful messages from dear friends saying such things like how ‘courageous and strong’ I am, and quite frankly it is nothing at work in me except God that provides those appearances.  I know that’s probably what my Mom feels, and definitely what St. Paul was referring to in my opening scripture.  You see, as a friend of mine discussed with me the other week, it takes a more strength (to assent from your human will) to surrender then to hold on.  It seems the natural thing to try and hold on and control things, but through experience and being disciplined, I have learned that the more I try and hold on, the more turbulent things become.  Letting go is the hardest thing to do, and just when it appears that I have seemed to make even the smallest progress in that area, the Lord asks me to go deeper in trust and let go, or detach, from something even greater or harder.

Letting go of my Mom is the hardest thing that has ever been required of me.  But seeing how greatly such an angelic woman has suffered, well, it provides the necessary motivation to surrender.  My Dad, 3 brothers and their wives, myself and my fiancee, Mike, have all made our peace with Mom.  We have shared all the love, tears, laughs, and words needed, and told her to go Home in peace.  All that she asks about now–as her earthly light fades, and her heavenly one increases–is about Jacob, who will be the newest addition to the family of my brother, Paul, and his wife, Pilar.  I imagine this baby, Jacob, wrestling in Pilar’s womb, with his frequent starts and stops, much like Jacob in Biblical times wrestled all night with an Angel.  As many refer to my Mom as an Angel, I pictured the two, Jacob and Mom, in a tug-of-war, with Mom praying for him to arrive quickly, and Jacob resisting leaving the comfort of his mommy’s tummy to enter life as we know it.  And poor Pilar is caught up in the mix of it!

Well, God-willing, we will hear of Jacob’s arrival soon.  As my Mother laid crying in her Hospice bed the other morning, I asked her what it is that she wanted before she passed away.  All she kept echoing was, “I want to see Jacob, I want to see Jacob, I want to see Jacob,” as the tears streamed down her face.  I told her God was listening to her, and we prayed as my brother, Jeff, led us into trying to help usher that child into being born.  Well, as of the last we heard at around 9:00 pm EST last night, Pilar was having contractions 15 minutes apart and Paul was pre-loading their bags into the car to be ready.  I am up in the middle of the night with much anticipation, as I await the news about Jacob, and wait to see how it will affect my Mother’s delicate state.  Her body is shutting down now as the Cancer grows and takes over.  I hate Cancer, I hate it.  But I love my Mom and God, and know we all will get through this as so many before us have, and many after us will as well, God forbid.

But there will be one more Angel, or I think of her now as standing more with the Saints, Eve Marie Sanchez, in Heaven to intercede for suffering Cancer patients and families.  She will be powerful in prayer, and loving as ever – true to always how she has been, and perfected in Love for all eternity.

I am quite certain that I am sharing some very personal thoughts and family moments with you here and now for a purpose greater then I can now understand.  I know undoubtedly that there are people who need encouragement and to experience GOD’S LOVE for the first time, or again; and even in her preparations to leave this earth, it is amazing to see how the love in and around my Mother is still doing that.  I am in awe, and know that people will still respect my family and the suffering that are also going through even now.  I write to process these things as well, and it is something healing for me, and hopefully for my family too.

I will bring this to a close now.  As my Mother’s first Grandchild, Alyssa, my niece, holds a special relationship with my Mom.  At only 13-years-old, I am very proud of the sweet and faithful young lady she is growing into (good job, Jeff & Annette!).  She has shared many beautiful writings with us over these trying months and weeks that have moved many adults to tears.  The last one she wrote before they left my parent’s home on Monday is what my Mom said that she’d like to go with her in her casket.  Since a public tribute it will become, I felt it honoring to both my Mom and Alyssa to share it here and now, as it says everything much more simply and perfectly then I am able to at this point.

On the front of the paper, Alyssa drew a picture of a lovely Angel, and it says, “My Grandma”.  On the back, it says that which my Mom is longing for as well as what I will leave with you for some time now (I will be with some of Mom’s family coming in soon, and attending to some of the many loose ends to wrap up as time allows…):

You will have long hair in Heaven.

You will have the most beautiful dress in Heaven.

You will have nice long legs so you may dance in Heaven.

You will have wings to show you are free and can fly in Heaven.

You will have the brightest smile for when you look down at us – our day will be wonderful!

You will have a halo to show you are an Angel, but you don’t need one to show you are one now.

I love you, Grandma,

Alyssa

Your 1st Granddaughter

UPDATE as of 6:15 AM on 1/18/11:  I just got a call from my brother, Paul.  They are at the hospital, and Pilar is dialated at a 4 out of 10 right now.  She is having pretty severe contractions right now, and they will not be going home – this baby is coming!!!  But it will still be awhile.  Poor thing, she is exhausted, not having slept in 3 days, and has even gotten sick in her labor.  Please pray for God’s will, including strength for Pilar, support for Paul, speed for Jacob, steadfastness for Mom, and peace for us all.

Finally, this beautiful song from Audrey Assad, has also been speaking to my heart.


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Letter from my Dad

My Dad sent out this email last night, and as he sat crying at the computer, I rubbed his back and told him that I’m sorry…

Greetings,

I would like to thank everyone for praying, sending cards and emails, visiting and phone calls, and bringing her meals.  Just for loving her and accepting her as your friend.  We are sorry if we ever did anything to offend you.  I personally feel that the time is growing very close and, if it is not for a miracle, she’s going to be called home to be with God.  We both love you and pray for your special needs.  I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with her; she is still the joy of my life.  2011 is going into our 44th year of being married.
Friends Always
Eve & Rich Sanchez
As we did this, my dear friends – Karla, Sefanit, Kelli, and Mike (my Fiancee), called from my home in Carrollton, TX, to “FaceTime” chat with us on our iPhones.  Their joy, prayers, laughing, love, talking with my parents were so special.  They all tag-teamed my Condo to pack things that I will need (since I hadn’t ‘planned’ on staying here at my parent’s home in Lady Lake, Florida, but don’t want to be anywhere else currently), which Mike will be bringing to me when he drives here this weekend.  Please pray for him, it’s been a loooong week for all of us since he left, and will be making the 20 or so hour trip with just our Guardian Angels to join him.  Thankfully he likes to drive!
I want to also thank each one of you for taking time to write, call, pray…etc.  I wish that I could write to/call each of you personally to express my gratitude, but as my Dad said, we love just spending time with her.  I think of the things she has loved and has done for me as she raised me so lovingly, and now I do them for her.  She instilled my love of reading, so from time-to-time we pick up George Bush’s autobiography for me to read to her.  I always loved when she read to me.
I put on a private “concert” for my parents in our living room, with my new Christmas gifts – a Martin guitar, and a “refurbished” Fender amp from a dear friend I play music with.   I told Mom that someone had paid me $1 million to bring me off of tour to come and do this little house concert, and it made her laugh.  Dad held her and sang to her, and she closed her eyes during many of the songs.  I think they are awake now, so I’m going to be with them.  You never really realize how precious each moment truly is until you are hanging on to each one of them.
Mom & Dad

My dear parents

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Letting Go

Letting Go

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

Surrendering our life and our will in order to become congruent with that of the Father’s is one of the most foundational practices of Christianity.  Although simple in theory, it is probably the area where we have the greatest number of “dug-in-heel” marks along our path.  We as humans are often fraught with disordered compulsions to jump in and take charge, to control, to manipulate, to “make it happen”, to go after the object of our desire regardless of timing or the cost.  I do not suggest reverting to an unmotivated wavering through life; but rather awakening the possibility of a more balanced approach between action and surrender, or doing and being.  That which I refer to as “active surrender”.

Considering that by nature I am a “make an action plan, make it happen” kinda gal, surrender in early stages felt like an unnatural and insecure interior stance.  I still sometimes wonder, “Shouldn’t I be doing something more?”  But after being hit by the Reality Mack Truck, I began to consider for a moment how prideful it is to think that God – the Master of the Universe – requires my help in bringing something about.  My headstrong involvement, lacking in eternal perspective, could even actually hinder something from occurring in the manner that it was intended.  I then began to discover that much of my participation is accomplished through praying, listening, seeking, looking for the truth in the situation and discerning a wise and appropriate response to it. My role is important and necessary as is God’s, yet we remain properly ordered.  It’s like riding the back of a tandem bicycle, peddling just as hard in second position while trusting the person in front to steer you safely to your final destination.

A passage I read frequently, to try and keep my feet set steadily peddling in back, is this one regarding St. Margaret Mary, who had received the promises from our Lord regarding Devotion to the Sacred Heart.

“Shortly before death, she had finally understood what he expected of her when he said to her, ‘Let me do it.’  ‘His Sacred Heart,’ she wrote, ‘will do everything for me if I let him.  He shall will, he shall love, he shall desire for me and make up for all my faults.’

Like St. Margaret Mary, you may hear Jesus a hundred times a day, saying to you, ‘Let me do it.’  In your difficulties, in your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask yourself, ‘What shall I do?  How shall I do it?’ listen to him saying to you, ‘Let me do it.”  And then answer him, ‘O Jesus, I thank you for all things.’  And it will be the most beautiful dialogue of love between a soul and the all-loving God!”

– excerpt from “I Believe in Love”

Undeniably both Jesus and Mary provide the models of perfection, in word and action, concerning this practice of letting go.  Consider that their greatness was directly proportionate to the depth of the surrender they exhibited in every moment of their lives, embracing the Divine purpose and relinquishing their own wills to it.  The following passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2825) further illustrates this point:

“Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.” How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.  In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.”

I just returned from Kansas City, MO, where over 21,000 others also attended the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference.  The first evening I navigated through table after table of vendors until I finally entered the area where various religious orders were set up.  To my right were both an old and younger Nun from the Little Sisters of the Poor.  I stopped for opportunity to learn – about them and from them.  I entered into a conversation with the younger one which covered a decent spectrum of topics, from daily routine to how God’s particular call was placed on her life.  Everything was beautiful and inspiring, yet a statement of one of her daily practices took hold of me.  She said that when she wakes up in the morning, the first thing she says immediately is, “Yes, Lord!” Everyday anew she gives the Lord her “yes”, demonstrating her willingness to let go and fully embrace what He brings to her in that new day.  Sr. Emmanuel then prays for the grace in that day to follow through with her “yes”.  Such simplicity, such love.  I pray for that grace for you and I as well.

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