Being given the opportunity to sing for four Masses, one Sunday, at St. Anastasia Catholic Church in Fort Pierce, Florida turned out to be a blessing... and not just for me. Upon returning home, after a week of pure goodness and joy, the ripples of faith continued to go out. Linda Schildwachter, a woman I have never met, sent me the following message through Facebook. Only God could do something like this.
Working for God comes with full benefits.
(I strongly recommend it.)
Working for God does come with full benefits. I am cared for, loved, completely entertained and humbled by watching His work through mine. I am Thankful for the way God brings us together at just the right time. Who knew, when my friend Jim asked me to write a song for his granddaughter... that God would use that song down the road to bless another? It is obvious again that everything we do is for something. Sometimes we have the privilege of finding out what that something is. I am thankful and inspired to keep answering God's call. As I frequently say to myself, "Just shut up and do the work. God knows the reasons why."
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
A HEARTFELT LEAP
"Sit on it and I'll take your picture." She said.
"You go first." I replied. What I didn't realize was that she knew better
than to actually sit on the blistering reptile.
I sat on the old boy like I knew what I was doing. I did not. Scorched my wrist, my ankle and my pretty, white pants. So much for new found friendship. I suppose, if I hadn't acted like I knew what I was doing she might have tried to help.
That's Jennie Capezza, the smart one on the left; a native Floridian who knew what would happen to a metal alligator in the piping hot sun. She attended my class in April 2015 at the National Catholic Educational Association Conference in Orlando (NCEA). Honestly, I don't remember meeting her back then but I will never forget the day that she contacted me the following June.
My name is Jennie Capezza. I am the Director of Campus Ministry at John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce, FL. I attended one of your dynamic sessions at the recent NCEA conference in Orlando. I love listening to your CD as I drive around town! I am inquiring about the possibility of you leading our faculty retreat on Tuesday, August 11 in Fort Pierce, FL. I would love to share your message with our faculty prior to returning to school in the Fall. Please respond with your availability and monetary cost. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.
It didn't take long to feel God's leading in this opportunity. It was actually more like a heart felt leap. I responded with my "Yes" and Jennie replied:
I’m thrilled to hear that you are available. I am in the process of communicating with my administrator about budget and expectations for that day and will be able to confirm with you at the beginning of next week. Can you tentatively hold that date for me until I get approval?
Her story continued:
I would like to share a little bit about myself and the great impact you had on my life at the NCEA conference.
During my first day at the NCEA conference in Orlando, I attended a couple High School/English sessions and felt like a fish out of water. I was disappointed and had an overwhelming feeling like I had been misplaced. But I held on to my faith in God’s plan; His timing and placement has always been perfect in my life. Well, God delivered once again when He guided me to your session. As soon as I walked in, I felt at home as you were passing out doughnuts and welcoming everyone. I didn’t talk very much, but I took it ALL in. I felt connected to your beautiful, simple message of God’s love and plan for us. The Holy Spirit was stirring in me, and I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to communicate my feelings of inadequacy as a high school English teacher with my administrator. Well, I communicated that I could no longer to be an English teacher. I felt lost for a couple weeks, not knowing if I would return to elementary school or just work at Starbuck’s for a couple years. Luckily, I was offered the Director of Campus Ministry position last week, and I am thrilled. But, I honestly feel like I would not have had the courage to say something if I wouldn’t have experienced God’s message through you. So… thank you! Just wanted to bear witness to the fruits of your labor!!
God bless you,
Jennie started her new job in June. She emailed me on June 4th. The stories of faith and inspiration which were to follow would not have come to be if it hadn't been for Jennie's willingness to reach out and share. She had no fear. She felt led to my class where God was truly the one waiting for her. She risked her career by telling her boss she could no longer continue in her current position. When offered her new role she did not hesitate and when she started her new job, the first thing she did was reach out, kitty corner, all the way across the country to ask if I might consider leading their faculty retreat.
I am humbled by my role in any of this. It is by God's grace that I have found the ability to share the gifts He has given me. No one could have predicted the outcome of Jennie's faithfulness and she is just getting started. I am a willing participant and an awestruck witness to God's work. He knows I'll go anywhere and I will do anything for Him... even if it means unwittingly sitting on a metal alligator in the hot Florida sun.
John Carroll Catholic High School Faculty Retreat, August 11, 2015.
You will be forever in my heart.
For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (NASB)
FINDING SISTER IMMACULATA
Wow! God is really good. My flight to Melbourne was on time today. My bag, however, decided to spend a little more time in Atlanta. When the luggage lady gave me the news, I told her I'd just get my rental car and wait at the airport.
l took the opportunity to familiarize myself with the car and load all my addresses into the GPS. I also tuned in for Sr. Immaculata's radio interview. As it turned out, her station number had changed so I spent an hour listening to Catholic Radio discussing a topic which wasn't particularly interesting to me. I missed her interview entirely.
Three hours after my original arrival I retrieved my bag, only a little irritated when, after all that, it was nearly the last one off the belt. On very little sleep overnight and nothing to eat... I finally hit the road.
My hotel was to be an hour drive from the airport. I decided to find my way to Sr. Immaculata's church in order to further familiarize myself with the car and practice driving in Florida. I found the church and sat for a few minutes at the far end of the parking lot. Feeling a little lost... I looked at a map to orient myself with the area and entered my hotel as the next destination. I glanced up just in time to see a white mini van pass before me, left to right. I was shocked to recognize Sr. Immaculata as the passenger. I quickly dropped my navigation tools and set out in hot pursuit. I followed that van for over five miles. Through neighborhoods and busy streets, I worked the scene like I was a cop in an episode of The First 48. Feeling like a stalker, I called my sister for advice. "Is this wrong? I asked. I'm not even sure it's her!" "You've gone this far, she said. It's gotta be a God thing. See it through and let me know what happens."
The van entered a shopping center parking lot. The driver parked, left the car running and went into the store, I cautiously approached the van and gave a happy wave to the passenger. It was her alright, sweet, hilarious, Sr. Immaculata.
We were both shocked and thrilled to have found each other since we had no plan to do so until later in the week. She told me she had come to the airport in an attempt to welcome me but could not find me. Her story explained though why the luggage lady mentioned seeing a nun rush through the area shortly before my original luggage-less arrival. We visited for a good fifteen minutes. It was wonderful.
I asked, "Do you drink wine, Sister?" "Well, yes dear, I do." "Good, I said, I brought you a bottle all the way from Oregon." Wine in hand she said, "God's provision is wonderful. Like manna in the desert, He does provide." To which I replied, "Like manna in the desert there is wine at the beach!" We held hands as we talked and exchanged I love yous as we said goodbye. Not so hard to believe, actually, that when you live life by the heart and let God lead... beautiful things happen. Serendipities abound. More about us when we meet again this Thursday.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.