I love it when God is in charge of my schedule. He puts together a much more interesting agenda.
Yesterday was a perfect example. A church friend sent an email to let me know Teresa Tomeo would be speaking at a special women's breakfast on Saturday, April 18. I was elated. Teresa (and our local Catholic radio station) played a part in my return to the Catholic church. After my mother passed away in March 2007, I was feeling lower than I ever had in my life. One day, I scanned the radio dial and suddenly heard a woman's voice interviewing another woman about faith. I stopped the dial to listen. Stunned, I realized I was listening to a Catholic radio station. I had never heard Catholic radio programming before and was surprised to hear such articulate wisdom. Both the show's host and her guest were discussing having a deeper prayer life. My soul lit up as I realized it had been a long time since I had been spiritually encouraged.
I listened for the call letters of the radio station: WUCO, St. Gabriel Radio. As soon as I got home, I hurried to my computer. Typing the name into a search field, I found the radio station's website and programming schedule. The host was Teresa Tomeo and she was interviewing Sr. Ann Shields, author of the book, Deeper Conversion: Extraordinary Grace for Ordinary Times. But at that moment, I had no idea who her guest was and decided to write Teresa and ask.
I didn't expect a direct answer from Teresa. But within a day, I received a lovely response from her, giving me the information I requested. Her warmth and genuine love for our Lord Jesus Christ came through loud and clear. I was touched that she wrote. Coming from a background of "mega-churches," I was used to having someone's assistant respond. In many non-denominational churches, there are layers of volunteers and assistants to handle inquiries. But if someone has some level of public "fame," it is next to impossible to ever speak to them personally or have them directly answer their own email. I was deeply touched that someone as busy as Teresa answered my request.
So as you could imagine, I was eager to finally meet her in person. I had meant to check in with the woman at my local parish to see if any of them would be attending, but in the midst of preparations for Easter Sunday, had forgotten. I headed toward a downtown parish alone, looking forward to a great presentation by Teresa.
I arrived on time and found a lively group of women already waiting in line for the registration table. I took my place and looked around. The church was an older one, with gorgeous stained glass windows and a beautiful baptismal font, surrounded by colorful Easter flowers. As I took my place in line, I looked around. Excitement and anticipation filled women's faces, some laughing as they greeted friends. I didn't know anyone, but behind me, there was a tall lady who had a twinkle in her eye. I asked if she attended St. Patrick's and she said no, she attended St. Joseph's Cathedral. Soon we were engaged in conversation as though we had known each other forever. We decided to sit together and continued the conversation.
"Mary" is a convert, as is her husband. During the course of our conversation, I discovered he was the editor of the diocese's Catholic newspaper. I thought this was interesting since I have had a few ideas for articles that I wanted to submit but hadn't completed them. Mary was a joy and I knew I had made a new friend.
We had a Mass, and then afterward enjoyed a continental breakfast. I noticed a few young mothers were present, one with a toddler and another with a newborn. I was happy they had the opportunity to come and hear Teresa. Both sat at the same table with Mary and me.
The program soon started and Teresa gave a powerful presentation on our media culture and what it's doing to women. I have also felt strongly about the negative impact of our media on women and young girls. Images that are nothing more than fantasy are paraded daily in front of women, often leading some to anorexia or bulimia in order to be as thin as the models and actresses. Few realize there is an extraordinary amount of photo-editing work done in order to make a model or actress even more "perfect." The objectification of women continues and, said Teresa, has gotten even worse since the feminist movement. Teresa emphasized how loved we are in God's eyes, without plastic surgery or any "additions." She challenged us to view our relationship with the media to see if we were allowing it to influence our relationship with God.
At the break, I decided to visit the book table and was able to get one of the few copies left of Teresa's powerful testimony of her journey back to the faith of her youth after "having it all" as a successful news anchor. I wasn't sure if Teresa would remember our email correspondence. As I gave her my book to sign, I mentioned I was the one who wrote her last year, the "reclaimer" who came back to the Catholic church. Her eyes lit up and a huge smile filled her face. "Of course! How wonderful to meet you! It's great you were able to come!" I laughed and she took my book to sign it. We chatted a little more and exchanged cards. After I got back to my table, I looked at what she wrote: Mary Rose, so nice to meet you and let's pray for each other! Hope to have you on the show, soon! Teresa Tomeo I had shared with her that my heart was to encourage college-aged women in particular and I had created videos about purity and chastity. She was interested in hearing more and told me to write to her.
While talking to the young woman with the newborn at our table, I discovered she is the assistant editor of Envoy Magazine. She encouraged me to contact her. I met the editor of the magazine through the social website Twitter, and he also encouraged me to submit the story of my return to the magazine. God was definitely on the move! I was stunned that out of all the people in the room, I ended up sitting next to the wife of the editor of our Catholic newspaper and on the other side, the assistant editor of a Catholic magazine! Just amazing.
Later, I attended a fundraiser dinner to help our local Catholic radio station and Teresa was kind enough to stay for the dinner and spoke briefly on the importance of Catholic media. After yesterday's morning event, I had visited St. Gabriel's booth and ended up talking to the Executive Director. I shared a few ideas with him and he told me to come to the dinner if I was able and we'd talk more. He gave my card to another man and I'll be visiting the radio station and helping them brainstorm a little. St. Gabriel Radio is a wonderful station but is in dire straights at the moment financially. It's always a challenge to raise money for these type of ventures and St. Gabriel is no different. They need a significant amount of funds within the next 60 days or there is a good chance they'll have to close shop. Needless to say, I want to help as much as I can.
So. That was my Very Surprising and Amazing Day! Some of you already realize that it has been in my heart to use my communication skills for the Kingdom of God. I just didn't know how or when it would happen. Yesterday greatly encouraged me that yes, God has all things under control and in His timing, it will happen. I shared this experience with you because you also may have something in your heart you wish to accomplish for God's Kingdom.
When I was teaching in the non-denominational ministry school, I would often have students approach me with big dreams. They wanted to accomplish big things for God. This often included traveling to various churches and being a part of the "conference circuit." I would tell them this: Let God open the doors for you. It's much more important to wait upon God's timing than rush in and do something that is not in sync with His schedule. When we "make things happen," often it will not bear as much fruit as when God makes it happen. So often, we get impatient, thinking God has forgotten our desire to serve Him in a specific way. But deep down, we are being pruned and prepared to be used by Him in His timing and to minister to those He chooses. It's a beautiful, intricate dance as we allow Him to lead, touching those around us whom He draws across our path.
I still don't have a crystal-clear idea of what exactly God will do with my life. I do know, though, that it's important to wait upon Him and serve Him in both the seemingly mundane daily tasks as well as the tasks that require more skill. In all things, serve Him and He will connect us with the right people.
Did I mention you have to be patient? I am beginning to think that most of our lives are meant to wait upon him for 5 minutes of play on the field. But during that waiting time, there is plenty being done in our souls. Which really, when you get down to it, is the greatest thing. It's not so much what we "do" with our lives - but rather who we become. We are all called to be transformed into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And that, my friends, will take a lifetime.