God’s own stay
There comes a point in every believer’s life where you realize you are on the right path, the wrong path or have one foot in and one foot out – walking a very dangerous tight rope that could threaten your salvation.
You can’t always help who your friends are. We get lumped in a school, a career, a path that can be rife with the right and wrong people. The more the drumbeat of the world, the harder it is to find like minded women and men to trust or hold you accountable morally. And sometimes we can linger too long with the wrong people because we trust ourselves too much to do a God-thing for those who need it. We can stay too long in jobs because of the money or the status. We can slowly let comprise drip, drip and ultimately overtake us until eventually we are won over to the thing we fought so hard to be above. Better than. A dangerous place of pride that dances with temptation. Someone always loses in that battle.
Being “in the world and not of it” gets harder when things devolve in the world to the degree that they have as we are experiencing now. In today’s world if you actually live as your faith instructs, you might just be a unicorn! It gets harder to stand alone, say no to the crowd and play that corporate game and get the God work done like Jesus under cover. That kind of spiritual chess has an expiration date and eventually a lived, intentional, radical faith will need to take center stage. Talk is cheap. The walk is a bit of a white martyrdom.
God proposes, he never imposes. He gives us our free will. We can freely choose how we live now and later. The “now” determines the “where” for the long run: eternity.
This week with all that’s swirling in the world and amid a painful loss of a spiritual sister – the fragility of life has me contemplating people. The type of people I want in my life now and forever. The type of people God has sent me. The type of person I want to be to honor and glorify Him.
As a committed Catholic, I didn’t always have like-minded Catholics around me and the temptation to give up my own beliefs could come on strong. Temptation to not wait. Temptation to compartmentalize. Temptation to have the success others had who seemed to not have a Cross but only a crown.
When I moved my life out of TV News and committed to work for the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Palm Beach, I could see how much more God needed me for Him than the Church needed me for it. Yes, I offered my time and talent for the work in service to the Church, but God was doing a parallel work in my soul that needed to happen if I was ever going to be of good use to God on this earth in a way that HE planned.
The first thing was to strip me totally of the worldly life, the newsroom, the power, the playmates, and to bring me to a place of silence, sacrifice, reflection and in many ways deep loneliness. It’s not to say that my life of faith wasn’t active before, but it was an immature faith. I went to Mass and Confession all the time. I did things for God all the time. But this was some sort of surgical leveling up, an interior cutting that had I known how deep, I might not have plunged so quickly into the Palm Beach assignment. God let me be broken to recreate me.
Of all the places that I lived and worked, this was a true desert for me. A God-permitted arid place where God could do His deep soul work. In that vacancy I began to vocalize that loneliness. It was my own mother who prayed (as a good mother should) for God to send me holy women. As an independent woman, to even say that it was lonely felt like a defeat. And holy women. Wuttt. Would they be cool? or Church lady crazy? These were my real thoughts after protesting that “no holy women existed in Palm Beach” asserting my isolation chamber and wanting that to be bigger than any prayer that could be answered better than I could imagine.
My mother kept praying for me.
Meanwhile, I did everything alone. Ate alone. Worked out alone. Worked each day, just about alone except for the few meetings or one-on-one interactions. My biggest excitement was that my office backed up to the back door employee entrance. Until scandals heated up and my office moved toward the inner more hidden part of the pastoral center. Instead of the police scanners, four times daily broadcasts, excitement in the field, breaking news and constant adrenaline rush, I was doubling down on the Sacraments and letting the world fall off of me little by little.
I was invited to participate on a prayer team at a parish healing mission. Little did I know this particular weekend would change my life forever. I met Emelyne Smith and her sister Mathilde Ambroise as part of this spiritual retreat. From the instant I saw them I knew something was different. They were striking. They were intentional. They were elegant. (they were cool!)
I wanted to stay very much in the background at this weekend event. A friend from Boston was giving the Saturday morning talk and because I heard him witness so many previous times, I stepped outside into the sunny parish piazza for coffee. Emelyne and Mathilde from the night before also ducked out. It was Emelyne who got my attention and said, “the Lord shows us He would like us to pray with you.”
I grew up in prophetic environments with very holy priests with genuine gifts. These two special daughters of an ordained deacon, were full of the Holy Spirit and God surely used them to speak to me that morning. These women were THE women, the answer to my mother’s prayer.
They spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit about my work, my path, my future spouse. They encouraged me in order to build up the Kingdom of God within me. This was not some nutcase uttering of fruitless words to tickle ears or fanaticism but truth flowing from God’s own heart that confirmed things that no man would know, but only God. Emelyne said that she understood my public calling and that God was providing for me an anonymous safe place to pray freely and invited me to their home cenacle of prayer. For five years, every Friday night was spent in prayer for the Church, my family, my life, future spouse. Emelyne and Mathilde displayed a radical hospitality that revealed the character of God’s own heart and helped me to be a better woman. They exposed me to their Haitian culture and many Latin cultures prevalent in South Florida and the spiritual richness of their faith.
Emelyne was a teacher and intercessor, like a big spiritual sister. Mathilde and Emelyne were inseparable in ministry and their gifts complimented each other to a great degree. All walks of life were attracted to this house of prayer – young and old, rich and migrant, the holy and the unholy, the single and the married, the very broken and every race. I saw deliverance. I saw miracles. I saw sacrifice and the talk being walked and lived out in ways that challenged me to my core.
Emelyne was a fierce warrior for God. Her fire was contagious. At first these women scared me a little. I never imaged that life after Palm Beach would mean that they would remain. So many others were fleeting, but God’s own stay. They ministered to so many and I attest that I am a transformed woman because of them. They helped me to do the spiritual work, not just for me, but for my family, my future husband and my future family. I had to be spiritually sanded and Emelyne was so much a part of this refinement – work that seemed repetitive and never-ending but would ultimately become permanent.
After a brief illness and fierce battle, Emelyne passed away to Eternity on Monday, March 14, the feast of Saint Mathilde. Even in her death, her life became a witness again. I didn’t feel worthy to be present during her sacred passing, but was permitted to join with the immediate family and spiritual family members to praise and worship God, to sing to him and testify to His goodness – to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Rosary and to and invoke our Blessed Mother, the saints and angels to accompany her on her journey to Jesus.
I see her there in Eternity with her Bible, her Rosary, her hands outstretched declaring and decreeing in the name of Jesus as part of the great cloud of witnesses cheering her husband, daughter, family and all of us on.
Thank you Emelyne for your love. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for teaching me how to be a friend to others. Thank you for standing with me as I fulfilled my assignment in Palm Beach. Thank you for insisting that I wait for God’s best, my future spouse. Thank you for always holding my parents, sister, niece, nephew and extended family in your deepest prayers as if they were your own. Thank you for teaching me about spiritual warfare. Thank you for showing me what it looks like to walk by faith and not by sight. Thank you for teaching me to sing and praise in a storm. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for your radical love for the Church. Thank you for showing me grace and dignity in suffering and death.
Because of Heaven, we rejoice that you have the promise of your true home.
Until we get there, please tell Jesus that we love Him. War for us now from the best vantage point+
We love you and can never repay you+
Requiescat in pace+