The Next Right Step

About a month ago, maybe 2, I was listening to the Abiding Together podcast, the one I talked about in my last post. The ladies were talking about how often we want to wait for God to move, and then we follow. We are hesitant in what we know He is calling us toward, or where we feel He is desiring us to move next. We want assurance, some kind of sign or confirmation, that this is the way forward.

Have you ever felt this way? I know I have. I felt that way before starting this blog, I’ve felt that way every time I’ve taken a break from writing and feel urged to start again. I feel that way at the start of each school year that we continue homeschooling. Questions run through my mind, is this what we are supposed to be doing? How will this work? Should I wait to see if some new idea strikes me instead? How will I begin?

For a brief moment, Jesus felt the same way in today’s Gospel reading – the Wedding at Cana. Here He was, minding His own business, having a nice time at a wedding. Then His mother comes over and tells Him that the couple ran out of wine – a social disaster. He not so politely to our modern ears informs His mom that “My time has not yet come.” He wasn’t ready, it wasn’t the moment. But in that moment, she demonstrates all of her faith and trust in who she knows her Son to be: “Do whatever He tells you.” 5 simple words that have changed the world again and again and again.

Jesus hears those words and His moment of doubt disappears. Confidently, and obediently to His mother, He instructs the servants to fill jars with water. And with no explanation of what would happen, the servants obey, even to the point of pouring what they expected to be water into the head waiter’s cup to drink. They did not understand, but they obeyed. And in their obedience the miracle happened.

The saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” We are so like horses! God leads us daily to true, living water. But it is our free will to drink deeply or not. There is grace and life waiting for us if we just dip our heads in obedience and humility to the One who brought us to this point.

What are you waiting for? Where is God calling you, already more than halfway through the first month of the year? Where is there grace awaiting you to just take that next first step?

Update on my Word for the Year

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reflecting and praying about my Word for 2019. I’m almost ready to say it’s “Follow-Through” but man, that takes a lot of courage for me to say. I am an ideas person, I love ideas. My husband somes calls me the “Idea Fairy” when I through too many ideas at him at one time. What I often don’t do so well is follow through on those ideas. I get stuck halfway through when the enthusiasm wanes and more ideas jump in my way. So, in order to follow through on things I need to do 1. A better job of discerning which ideas are actually from God 2. Taking the right next first step toward actualizing God’s plan and 3. Stay the course.

I’m sorely tempted to shy away from this Word, because it’s going to be a big big challenge. However, there is so much good that God could do with me, it seems like the temptation to set it aside might be from the opposing side.

Like I said, it’s not definite yet, but writing about it here makes it feel pretty decided. Maybe it’s the push I needed to make the next right step. I know that there will be grace waiting for me when my foot lands, ready to help me take the next right step after that.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary

I’m a sucker for beautiful pictures of Mary. Especially when she is pregnant or while Jesus is young. As a youngish mom with four kids I connect very strongly with this image. The hopeful expectation, the waiting, the she-totally-gets-how-it-feels-when-I-can’t-roll-over feeling, all of it. It’s probably why Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. I’m surrounded by these images of Mary and the Holy Family and it brings my heart so much joy. The new Advent meditation journal Rejoice! by Fr. Mark Toups is full of beautiful reflection and gorgeous paintings. And I mean gorgeous! So gorgeous if anyone wanted to give me the set to hang in my house I would be overjoyed…hint hint.

Rejoice! is published by Ascension Press, so you know it’s solid in its theology, wisdom and direction. I have gone through the entire book and used so many book darts! The book encourages imaginative prayer, which is a prayer form that I think our culture is uniquely suited for but no one talks about much. Imaginative prayer comes to us as a formal prayer from from St. Ignatius. Fr. Toups explains that “we imaginatively see the persons in the Bible passage, we hear the words they speak, and we observe the actions they accomplish in the event.” It’s taking the time to slow down enough to be in the scene. 

Then, after spending time within the passage, you move onto a method called A.R.R.R. – Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, Respond. You acknowledge how God is stirring within you, you relate to God (this means talking straight to God, not thinking about what you think God thinks or wants you to think, but real and deep sharing of everything that was brought to your mind), receive what God is sharing with you and lastly, respond to what you’ve received. You are also encouraged to journal about your experience so you can look back and see how you’ve grown and how God has shaped you during this Advent. 

What is so cool, and I didn’t pick up on until reflecting back on the meditations as a whole, is that Fr. Toups very gently leads you through this A.R.R.R. process over the four weeks of Advent. The first week is spent looking deeply at where God is in our life. The second is about relating with God in a vulnerable and authentic way. The third is about our receptivity, how open and empty are we so that we might receive God more fully. And the fourth, though short this year, challenges us to respond proactively to what we have experienced over the four weeks. It’s so brilliant.

Ascension, has carefully thought through the whole package. Their ideal for the meditations as stated in the very beginning, is for this to be a community walk with Mary. There are additional videos that offer fresh and expanded insights on each of the four weeks of Advent. They have free videos online right now, plus there is an Advent Mission Kick-off video which is about thirty minutes to help your small group or parish get things going. You can also sign up to have the weekly videos sent straight to your email if you are hosting a gathering in your home, or if you are simply journeying as a family. Community is an integral part of holiness and I love how it is gently and thoughtfully woven into this journal experience. 

If your parish is looking for something to do together this Advent season, it’s not too late to get your journals in bulk. Be brave, if this review has inspired you bring it to your priest or parish coordinator. You could be the spark that begins a wonderful Advent experience for your whole community.

I can totally see our family using this journal around the dinner table, and sharing in a joint imaginative prayer experience with our children – aren’t they the best at it? As I was writing this review, my seven year old came up and asked what I was doing. After I explained and we went through the pictures, he said “That’s cool,” and walked away. Later that day, he was sitting with his four year old sister and I overheard him saying,

“Clare, we have to get ready for Advent. Mommy has a book and it has pictures of Mary in it. It helps her get ready for Advent. What comes after Advent?”

“Christmas!” she shouted.

“Right,” he said, “So we all have to get ready for Jesus.”

How precious, and that’s just from looking at the pictures! Also, p.s., the pictures are all free and available right now to download for your phone or computer to use throughout Advent. Check them out here. You know I already have them downloaded. I hope you check this journal out, maybe even share it with a friend or two or twenty!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

What do Marian Consecration and Folding Laundry Have in Common?

When two totally random ideas that come together only in my brain like this, it has to be a God-thing. Well, maybe not all the time, all the time. There was that one time I thought marinating pork in red wine was a good idea and yea, that one probably was contrived all on my own (purple pork does not make an appealing plate). But this one is good. I promise.

I have been folding my own clothes since I was probably about 10, plus or minus a year or two. I helped fold laundry in my house until I left home after college and married Ben. The laundry folding saga continues to the present. So, with approximately 20 years of experience folding all manner of clothing, you’d think I’d have it together. But I recently realized I have to rethink something, shirts specifically.

Before diving in, you have to know I fold shirts 3 different ways, depending on who I’m folding for. For myself, I fold the way they do in stores – both sleeves back, sides folded back, then folded in half so you can see what’s on the front of the shirt. When I married Ben I had to learn a completely different way of folding, because he folds his shirts the way he was taught during ROTC, into a small square (it’s complicated, I’m not going to try to explain it). For the kids, I fold the shirt in half hotdog style, then hamburger style.

Why am I crazy, folding shirts 3 ways? I refuse to fold my shirts into small little squares, because like I said, it’s complicated. So there’s 2 ways minimum. I’m not folding the kids clothes in squares, see above. And when they were little their shirts were so tiny it was easier to just do hotdog-hamburger move on (so many shirts!).

Now here’s my problem. The kids are digging and digging through their clothes, looking for specific shirts. Their drawers are so messy, because they unfold a bunch of shirts in search of that perfect one. Why why why!? Because their mother only just realized that when she folds their shirts, she puts the font in the middle of the hotdog, so the only part of the shirt they can see is the back. (insert face-palm emoji and tears of sadness here).

launry and marian consecration

Ok, you’ve endured this far. What on earth does it all have to do with Marian Consecration? Everything of course!

Marian Consecration is the complete and total gift of yourself to Jesus through Mary. One of the more common misconceptions about Marian Consecration is that somehow it’s all about Mary, since it has Marian in the name. Mary is, of course, important, but she is simply the way to the goal, which is Christ.  In laundry terms? Mary folds the shirts with the front showing so there isn’t any guessing about getting what we want and where we want to go. She’s so smart that way 😉

What is Marian Consecration, you may ask? Marian Consecration was first brought to the Church by St. Louis de Montfort in the late 1600s. In his book True Devotion, de Montfort lays out a 33-Day Consecration retreat, as well as expanding on his understanding of Mary and Jesus. De Montfort’s basic argument is that Jesus chose to reveal Himself through Mary, and Mary is the one who both knew Him best and worked most perfectly with Him. So, if we wish to know Christ and work with Him, we ought to align ourselves with she who has perfected this path. Mary’s life was set apart, or consecrated, for the holy purpose of bearing Christ to the world. We are called to do the same with our own lives. We make Christ known and we know where to find Christ (i.e. we fold shirts so we and others can see the front).

Some Louis de Montfort Quotes:

“It is through the most Blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world, and it is also through her that he will reign in the world.”

“If then we are establishing sound devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only in order to establish devotion to our Lord more perfectly, by providing a smooth but certain way of reaching Jesus Christ.”

“Since she is the sure means, the direct and immaculate way to Jesus and the perfect guide to him, it is through her that souls who are to shine forth in sanctity must find him. He who finds Mary finds life, that is, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life…Mary then must be better known than ever for the deeper understanding and the greater glory of the Blessed Trinity.”

“By this devotion we give to Jesus all we can possibly give him, and in the most perfect manner, that is, through Mary’s hands.”

Marian Consecration is a serious thing, as you may have guessed. This isn’t a part-time thing or a some days but not others. I choose a few years ago to undergo the 33-days and since then I have re-committed myself each year. The way it works is actually pretty simple. 34 days before any Marian feast (The Presentation of Mary, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, etc.) you begin your 33 days. There are 2 main texts that people use to follow. You can use de Montfort’s True Devotion, which I have not used but want to this year (I start my 33 days on Nov. 5, with a consecration day on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception). The other text is called 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. This is what I have used up to this point, and it is a great overview of de Montfort’s book, as well as weaving in the theology of John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Maximilian Kolbe – 4 powerhouse Marian saints. I can only say good things about Gaitley’s book, and I’ve only heard good things about de Montfort’s.

If you have more questions about Marian Consecration, I’d love to hear them. If you would like to take the leap this fall, I’d love to journey with you starting on Nov. 5.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com