Promises | I am a Gift
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last…
| John 15:16
This promise is given to the apostles during the Last Supper. While literally every word of what Jesus says is important and can apply to us, this particular promise has been hard for me to accept. The Lord knows I can be stubborn, so I think He has “planted” me in some particularly crazy circumstances to get it through my head that my life–my entire life–is a gift that bears good fruit.
One example–I work for Eden Invitation because I chaperoned my sister’s World Youth Day trip.
(Buckle in– even the summary is kind of a lot!)
That trip to Krakow, Poland in 2016 was right before my senior year of undergrad. I was the youngest chaperone for my sister’s youth group trip to join millions from around the world to celebrate and share the joy we’d found in Christ. In each place we went on this trip, I asked God for His guidance because I had no idea what to do after I graduated. I was training to be a teacher, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to teach! Thankfully, God did give me a sign.
I’m serious. It was a literal billboard on the side of a tram stop with John Paul II saying “Study in Poland.”
That never left me. It was both out of left field and the obvious next step at the same time. People in my life had mixed opinions, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter–I knew in my gut that I needed to go. The next thing I know, it’s September 2017 and I’m alone with all my baggage at the Wrocław Główny train station, practically illiterate, with no way to reach the contact the university was supposed to send to meet me. What I prayed next became one of the main refrains in my prayer life: “Lord, You got me into this mess, now You gotta get me out!” He did then and many many other times. But to stick to the main plot here, we actually need to look under the adventures and action stories into the seemingly quieter moments of my life in that season.
Living in Poland was my time in the desert. Yes, I lived in a bustling urban center, but the noise around me didn’t grab my attention because I didn’t understand much Polish. This gave me space to think more about who I was and who I wanted to be. I wrestled with language as I studied it; what are my longings, how do I communicate them, and what do I do with them? And as I learned more, there were additional questions: how do others–other cultures with other languages, within Christianity and even some outside of it–communicate their longings? Were there any that fit my story? Is my search for understanding merely for myself or is there something here that can help others?
All of this searching brought something else to the surface: I love to write. I filled everything from napkins to journals with ideas and poems. I had an excellent academic advisor who helped hone my writing. I started exploring other interests too, such as art history, historical dress, jazz music, indie animation, and board games (no, not Monopoly). In terms of developing my own personality and talents, I was thriving.
No matter where I was in my relationship with God, I could not deny that this was where I was meant to be. Though I tried, I had no other way to explain how I got there and thrived except through His providence. Leaning into the image of Jacob wrestling God (Gen. 32: 25-32), I chose to meet Him in that creative space. Together, we began working through my words again– my same-sex desires, questions on gender and self-expression, and longing for self-gift.
On December 28th, 2018, I was on a trip to Italy with two dear friends. That day we ran around Rome, guided by a relative of mine who had lived there for nearly 20 years. I remember wandering through Saint Paul Outside the Walls, our last stop for the day. I was holding a new set of gut feelings: I am called to God’s Heart, my LGBTQ+ experiences aren't going anywhere, and I am called to write.
These three seemed connected, but that connection spelled "coming out.”
To share my story publicly meant stepping into a potential sea of hostility. To me, it wasn’t just the side comments using culture war language anymore. I had seen with my own eyes Polish police, at ease but ready in riot gear, walking with people in rainbow clothes. I saw too the counter-protest filled with angry faces that I had seen calm at Mass just days before. As someone who loves people on each “side”–as someone who fits both “sides” in certain ways–was I ready to stand in the middle?
I wanted to ask the advice of my relative, who is a priest, but he had to go back home before we had a chance to talk privately. When we parted ways, he did encourage me, “Trust in the Holy Spirit.”
Wandering through that basilica, I came to the side chapel of Saint Stephen. His hand, carved from marble and opened downwards, invited me to sit awhile. There I poured out my heart in prayer–my fears of pain, of failure, of the unknown. The more I poured out, I could see those three “gut feelings” were still there. They looked like stones to me, but I had no idea how they could be used to build anything. I asked the Holy Spirit:
“What do You want to do with these?”
“But they are heavy and I’m restless! Can’t I do something with them now?”
Pray and Wait.
So I waited…but He did say “Pray and Wait”–He knows I have a hard time sitting still.
Looking back at my prayer journals from that time, I see how those three “stones” were actually seeds. God had placed them there and was preparing them to sprout and bear fruit in their own time.
I left Poland after graduating in June 2019. That’s when I became a campus minister and met Eden Invitation (I share more about that in the previous blog). One of the main fears I had connected with my calling was that, whatever it ended up being, I would have to do it alone. Through the community of Eden Invitation, I had other people who understood my experiences walking with me. In sharing my story with them, I could see a clearly connected path through my longings– that God used my every step to bring me closer to Him, even the ones I took to move away from Him. When I received the stories of others in this community, each one a unique gift, it only solidified the truth that God works everything for our good. Together, we can walk with a sober realism that is founded in joyful hope; He will continue to care for us no matter what happens. This community was the nurturing space I needed for those seeds of mission in my heart to grow.
For two years, I participated in anything I could to help the mission of Eden Invitation: to create space to receive the whole person, build systems of mutual support, and empower for creative discipleship. By serving my communities–my students, my parish, and my family in person and Eden Invitation through our regional Hearth Group – I was learning how my life as a single, celibate woman with a tenacious heart and talents for teaching, humor, and communication could be a gift to those around me.
In 2022, I participated in a special discernment retreat held by Eden Invitation called Rooted & Free. For weeks before the retreat, I met with a small group of other community members on Zoom and we learned what it meant to discern. Then on the retreat itself, about 35 of the total 70 participants met in person and prayed over where God was calling this mission and community next. On that retreat, I heard His voice speaking over those seeds in my heart again:
Are you ready?
There was so much fruit from my life right where I was– a supportive community, a good job, growing hobbies–and yet His question spoke to that stretching feeling still in my heart. Something new was about to start...
“What do You have in mind this time?”
I applied to work for Eden Invitation full-time right after the retreat. Within three months I was working as the new Communications and Relationship Specialist and planning my move to St. Paul, MN! In this work, I have encountered Christ’s Sacred Heart in a deeper way than I ever have before. New challenges have further honed my adaptability, resilience, and communication skills. I have the honor of using my talents to share the stories of fellow striving LGBTQ+ disciples– stories that have encouraged, enlightened, and expanded people’s hearts to see the beauty of God’s plan for all of us. And now, I get to see how my own story is bearing that new fruit too.
Knowing Him, there’s a whole lot more where this came from! I can’t wait to see what happens next–all of the new, lasting fruit that will grow through my life.
I can’t wait to learn more fully how I am a gift.
Whew–that one covered a lot of ground! Thank you for joining me in another chapter of my story!
If this rollercoaster resonated with you, know that you are not alone! As I wrote above, I grew so much through the community here, especially at the in-person retreats with Eden Invitation. I hope you can join us for the next one! If you have an LGBTQ+ experience and would like to come on retreat, you can read more about the upcoming retreat on our info page here.
While we have “caught up” to the present moment in my own story, I do have one more chapter to share–see you next week for the final post! (Read it & Listen to an EI original song in Part 5 | He is there in my longing)
To read Part 1 | Meet Bernadette, click here.
To read Part 2 | I am Beloved, click here.
To read Part 3 | I Belong, ...you guessed it: click right here.