God Moments

I went on a retreat last year that really had life changing effects.  (Don’t get your hopes up, this post is not about that.  I’ll save that for another time.)  If you’ve ever been on a retreat of any sort, you know that you usually feel like you’re on a high in the days that follow the retreat.  As more days pass, this high starts to fade a bit.  For this reason, the particular retreat that I went on sets up small groups to meet regularly to try to keep that fire alive in the retreat participants.  At these small group meetings, we would start in prayer and then move on to talking about “God Moments”.  Where did we see God in our life since we last met?

For me, recognizing God Moments in my own life has been very affirming.  There are still times that I become doubtful of everything that I believe.  I start to think, wait, why do I believe this?  Is this just silly?  Am I too smart to take part in all of this religious stuff?  These God Moments bring me back to faith.

I had a big God Moment just this past Tuesday.  In the past couple months, we’ve had a couple different health scares with our Little Guy.  We thought that he might be having seizures that could possibly be causing developmental delays.  In order to investigate these concerns, a 72-hour ambulatory EEG was performed on Little Guy in our home back in September.  Luckily, no seizures were detected and his brain activity was normal.  (Lots of prayers answered there.)

In November, Little Guy came down with an awful case of croup and at the suggestion of a nurse, we had to rush him to the emergency room via an ambulance.  After a trip home and then a trip back to the ER, with a lovely overnight stay in the pediatric department, luckily Little Guy was okay.

So, the good news is that our Little Guy is now was in good health.  The bad news came recently in the form of BILLS.  Lots of medical bills!  An ambulatory EEG is not cheap and neither are ER visits with overnight stays.  Now, if you can’t already tell, I get a little concerned about money.  Most of us do, right?  This is the area where my faith is always tested.  Stress and worry can often overcome me in this area.  But, if I’ve learned anything in this last year, I know that stress and worry serve no good purpose.

On Tuesday, I was finally tackling the pile of medical bills.  I was going to make calls to ask to go on payment plans.  Back in my working days, this was never necessary.  So, frankly, it was a bit humbling for me to have to set up payment plans.  I don’t like “owing” anyone.  I don’t like to carry a balance on my credit card.  You get the idea.

I was about to make the calls and Little Guy reached up to our little prayer corner and grabbed the Virgin Mary statue.  (More on my prayer area another time!)  He never grabs for her.  I asked him to bring Mary to me.  He handed her to me with a big smile and I sat her down next to all of my bills.  Now, for any non-Catholics out there, don’t worry.  I don’t worship Mary.  No Catholics do.  But we do revere her and I like thinking about Mary as the ultimate female role model.  Having an image of her nearby is a great reminder to try to be like her, obedient to God’s will.  I also happened to have a little devotional book sitting out, which had a picture of Jesus on the cover.

As I looked at the Mary statue and the picture of Jesus, I remembered that I had once heard a woman say that she always says a little prayer before she sits down to pay her bills.  I’m not sure if I had ever really done that before and decided this was a good time to start.  I think I said something like, “Jesus, please help me figure out how to get all of these bills paid.”  Short and sweet.  And, seriously, I felt a sense of calm sweep over me and truly felt like Jesus was saying to me, “Don’t worry. You have enough.”

Right there, that sense of calm, was a God Moment for me.  I went on, made all of my calls, set up payment plans, and was done.

During one of the calls, I asked to speak to someone regarding a complaint that I had a about an ambulatory EEG technician.  Yes, it had been a couple of months, but I still couldn’t let go what had happened.

Background:  This technician was perhaps the most insensitive medical professional I had ever encountered.  As soon as he entered our home he complained about having to drive too far to our house.  When I asked questions about how toddlers cope with this procedure, he rudely asked me if I still even wanted to go through with it.  As he glued the EEG wires to Little Guy’s head, a process that took over an hour and a half, he commented that he couldn’t believe how much my Little Guy was crying.  (It’s a pretty traumatic experience for a 1 1/2 year old.)  And as a final insult, he did not provide us with a backpack to hold the receiver pack.  He just, quite  insincerely, apologized and said good luck almost sarcasticly when I asked how in the world was I going to trail behind a toddler while holding a wire receiver for 72 hours.  (The wires that were glued to his head were connected to this receiver pack.)  

The woman I was speaking with from the billing department had just helped me set up my payment schedule and was kind enough to give me the phone number for the owner of the ambulatory EEG service company.  A couple hours passed and a woman named Sonya called me to listen to my complaint.  She was very kind and a bit alarmed as I told her about my experience.  She was extremely apologetic.  I told her that I felt badly about not calling sooner but that life had gotten in the way and when I received the bill the memories of the bad experience resurfaced.  And I wanted to make sure that no one else had this kind of experience.   I felt good about getting it all off of my chest.  From the way Sonya was reacting, I felt confident that this man, who had treated us so poorly, would be encouraged to change his ways in future appointments.

I thought the phone call was over when all of a sudden, Sonya said, “I’m so sorry about all of this and I’d like to waive your balance.”  What?  I didn’t ask for this.  That wasn’t why I had called.  I had already made the first payment, in fact.  But, I decided this was another God moment.  He was helping me through her kindness and charity.  I told her if she wanted to waive the remaining balance, I would be so thankful.  I wanted to at least pay my first payment.

I felt a little shaky.  I was so shocked.  I looked at the little statue of Mary and picture of Jesus and remembered the simple prayer that I’d offered up just a couple hours earlier.

There are times when we think that prayer does not work and usually it’s because we do not know how it is working.  Or it is because we may say the wrong types of prayers.  We sometimes come to God with a laundry list of things for him to do in our lives.  We tell Him what to do.  It’s not wrong to ask God for something, but we have to also have the knowledge that we will only receive something if it is HIS will.  And answers to prayer only come in HIS time.  Sometimes we get immediate responses, sometimes it takes years.

When I prayed before paying my bills, I didn’t ask for a million dollars or even for the exact amount of money to pay for the bills.  I asked for Jesus’ help in figuring out how to get them all paid.  I asked Him to help, but humbly, I left HOW He would help me up to Him.  And believe me, it takes practice for a control freak like me to really trust Jesus and release the control to Him.  But oh, how awesome it is when I’m able to do that!

Have you had a God Moment recently?

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How God used a Smartphone to “Call” Me

I used to commute from my rural/suburban small city to the downtown hub of a major U.S. city three times a week for a part time job.  I drove to the train station, rode a commuter train for about an hour and ten minutes, and then walked another fifteen minutes to my office building.  Door-to-door, the entire commute was approximately an hour and a half each way.  If there was inclement weather or an accident of some sort, the commute could be a frustrating two to three hours.

My commute was a huge challenge for me mostly because, at the time, I was a mother of a toddler and an infant.  Even though I only worked three days a week, I felt a lot of stress.  Due to my commute, my work day kept me out of the house for twelve hours.  I was also a nursing mom.  In addition to my laptop, I also lugged my Medela pump kit including bottles and pumping accessories to and from work.  When you are a commuter with crowded city blocks to walk, that’s a lot to carry.  I had a heavy load and not just in the physical sense.

I desperately wanted to be at home with my kids during their early years of life.  I felt like I was starting to lose my mind a little bit, losing hope.  I think it was upon the suggestion of my mother that I had downloaded a bible onto my Nook. I tried to remember to read it on my commute into the city in an effort to reduce my stress and help me pray for help in dealing with my situation.  I felt a little lost just reading the bible.  I didn’t have any direction.  I didn’t always remember what I read.  Despite all of that, I thought it was still worthwhile.  And so, I carried on in my bible reading efforts.

One Sunday after mass, we were sitting in the community room with fellow parishioners, eating donuts.  A group of older couples all had their smart phones out and were discussing apps.  My husband and I exchanged glances.  We didn’t even have smart phones and were shocked at how technologically advanced these senior parishioners were.  They were talking about an app called Laudate, an app that housed all sorts of Catholic goodies.   The feature that stood out to me was the interactive rosary.  I could not remember the last time I prayed the rosary and I wasn’t sure I remembered how.  With this app, however, I wouldn’t need to remember how to pray the rosary because the magical little app walked you through the whole devotion.  How intriguing.

Although I did not have a smart phone,  I did have an ipod touch.   When we got home from church that day I promptly downloaded Laudate.  I began to pray the rosary during some of my commutes.  I would like to say that I did this during every commute, but that would not be the truth.  Perhaps once a week would be more accurate.  I didn’t know it at the time, but as I look back I see that this new devotion to the Blessed Mother was the start of something bigger.  Looking back, I realize that the commute that I thought was the biggest cross in my life turned out to be a kind of blessing.  It gave me the quiet, alone time that I needed to be able to pray the rosary.  I now know that this was a turning point in my life.  Without really realizing it, I had invited Mary into my heart and my life began to take a new direction.

Mary leads people to her son, Jesus.  And that’s really the point of the rosary.  If you’re not Catholic, you might think that praying the rosary is a crazy way to worship Mary.  It’s actually really just a way to ask Mary to pray for you and a tool to help you meditate on the life of her son.  I believe that when I started to pray the rosary on those train rides, something started to change in my life.  After several months of praying on the train, I had a renewed hope and the beginning of a deeper faith.  Mary’s intervention in my life helped to jumpstart my desire to have a relationship with Jesus.  It’s so true that God works in mysterious ways.  Who would have thought that He would reach me through a Smartphone?