The Invitation Accepted:
Living an Extraordinary Life
In a book called The Invitation: Uncovering God’s Longing to be Heard, published in 2015, I wrote of my journey from illness to faith. This book contained my story of reaching a desperate crossroads, surrendering to God, and emerging from many years of illness to walk through the greenery. There, stripped of the identity I once had but cloaked in gratitude, I began to hear God’s voice. At the time I wrote this book, I was a Jewish girl being led on a journey to a place then unknown to me. God’s words were only beginning to be fulfilled in my heart. In the narrative ahead, I share the incredible wonders that have unfolded since I wrote The Invitation.....
Believe it or not, I am just like you. I felt the emptiness too. I thought that was how life was to be for me. I thought perhaps I had learned something the wrong way or that luck had abandoned me. But that was not true. It wasn’t about luck at all.
Yet something changed. There is no way in the world I would have expected this life—nor would I have been interested in where I have now wandered. It seems I had been strolling all my years only to come upon a door that was held half open for me. Somehow it caught my eye from miles away, and I walked toward it without knowing what it held inside. By the time I reached this door, my fear of the unknown had vanished. Surely, I had suffered with the unknown before, but now, my inner strength surprised me.
God had rescued me from a life lacking purpose and meaning and led me to a place I knew existed but—as a Jewish girl—had not seen as an option for me. This land to which He led me was a world of hope and meaning—a world deeper than any my mind could fathom. When I heard God’s voice, I entered His way, His meaning, and His purpose for mankind. In this new land, I discovered how He had wished us to live. God spoke to me of living in union with Him, as Jesus did. The name Jesus was not foreign to me, but His teachings were, and when I heard those teachings for the first time, taught to me as I walked through the greenery, my life began to blossom with love. He led me to the Catholic Church through His wish for me—a creed—given to me one day as I sat in a church garden: They speak of me but do not know me. They speak at me but without the space within their hearts to listen. He was speaking to me of the priests of the Catholic Church.
While I was still a Jewish girl, God asked me to help these priests to hear Him. He asked me to teach them the way to listen to His voice and to follow what His voice was telling them. He spoke of the fire within their hearts and how it was fading. He asked me to stoke that fire with what He had taught me, and He reassured me that the Catholic faith would then nurture them and their parishioners with His peace. Looking back, I realize this was my conversion moment. This was the moment God was calling, shouting to me that I must open wide the door my Jewish faith had emphatically asked me not to enter.
I did not know much about the Catholic faith until God led me to it. He asked me to go to Mass and learn about the Eucharist—the sacred liturgy of “WE,” the true union between Jesus and the spirit of man—the union of which Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, where He gave us His body and blood. I learned all I could, for this was my story of “WE.” It was what I had already been taught by God on my walks through the greenery. And I knew I could not go on with my life without living the journey He taught me. Then, God told me it was time for me to become Catholic.
There were those around me who balked at my decision to enter a new faith, including some who were Catholic themselves. But God’s freedom taught me that they did not experience the miracles I had experienced. I learned quickly that what others think should never interfere with what God has asked of me. With my heart in His, I continued to walk ahead. I asked to be baptized on the day of the conversion of Saint Paul, for Saint Paul’s journey from Judiaism to Christianity spoke to me.
It was a beautiful but cold day in January, with frigid winds blowing. I had been given a garland of spring flowers to wear on my long blonde hair. Entering the cathedral with Sister Nancy, I wore white sparkling embroidery to symbolize the innocence with which I was to give my heart to God on that day. I let go of the past, all had I tried to be, and all I knew I was not in order to add to my life His creed and to be, instead, who He had asked me to be. On that frosty day in Saint Mary’s Cathedral—in front of my priest friends, my nun friends, my OSV family, and my husband Frank—I was baptized a Catholic girl, with a heart set on fulfilling the creed that God had asked of me: to teach them to hear Him. As the water washed my face with His pure goodness, I remembered a poem by Rumi that spoke to the moment. I wanted to cry it out as part of a vow, but my mouth would not open. Yet my heart sang:
I have come this time
to burn my thorns,
to purify my life,
to take up service again
in the garden.
I come weeping to these waters
to rise free of passion and belief.
Look at my face. These tears
are traces of you.
When I entered my new faith, it felt much like being in a strange place. I learned that everything was foreign to me. Even a foreign language was spoken here—one that uses the same words but in different ways and conveys what is thought but not always what is felt. In this foreign land, it was quite common for feelings to be buried—so much so that I often felt I was staring at glass faces, rigid in their expression and capable of being easily broken. However, the eyes of those I gazed upon were bright and sparkling, as a pair of patent leather shoes shines in the sun. They caught me and held me for a time until I realized it was He who held me. It was He who caught my eye. And it was He who had beckoned me all those years as I strolled toward that open door.
Here I was met with kindness and with light. I was met with a sense of possibility. And though what I said was foreign to the minds of those I met here, they sat with it. They so loved discerning it, reflecting upon it, opening their hearts to it and taking it apart. For a while, I wondered whether I should be doing the same—for what I knew came so easily to me. It was His voice that spoke it to me. And so I took it as the truth and shared it with those within these doors who were looking for Him.
What happened goes beyond a fairy tale—beyond magic and things that we imagine as children. A life that always had been a struggle soon became a gift. From the first open door I walked through to the many open doors inside, I learned through His voice about Him and His Way and what He wished my life to be. I learned about how He had sent me here to help them to find Him. I learned that what was within me was within them. Somehow I found a way to bring the inside of these loving souls out so they could walk among the world of the feeling and begin to lead the world of the struggling with their bright and sparkling eyes.
Ever since I entered this place, each day has been a miracle. The half-open door that called to me, swallowed me whole. I was fresh and new and able to heal the brokenness around me by shining His light upon it. His light heals. Never in my life had I imagined it was possible to heal in such a way. Then, God asked me to heal those who found their own brokenness an obstacle to Him. And He thanked me by caring for me, loving me, and being my Father.
During my many years of illness, I had drawn pictures from my bed—pictures of places I later came to recognize as churches—churches I have since come to know as familiar places in my work. Now I can see that He was leading me to them. While I lay in bed, asleep to my meaning and purpose, God had been filling my heart with wisdom and creating this life inside me. I once thought that all those bedridden years of loss would make jagged chasms inside me, but instead, they became places where love grew. Instead of being cautious about loving, I became filled with the deepest love I could ever know. It’s funny how that happens—the depths of despair becoming the depths of joy, peace, and His love. Now I am able to feel what I had no space for before—beautiful, good things that I had never experienced in my life.
I will never live another day that is not extraordinary. I have love and the peace of God in my heart. I will never live another day without His beauty and my faith, for faith is the secret to an extraordinary life. I have these open doors to thank—and the sparkle of Him in the eyes of those inside them. Now, as I sit around a table of priests who hear His voice and stoke the warm fire of love for God in their hearts, I realize that what He has asked of me is being fulfilled. These things were fulfilled through a personal relationship with God - with Him I have been living an extraordinary life!
With His Peace and Gratitude,