“Do not be Afraid, “Have no fear”, and other similar commands are the most repeated phrases in the Bible. It is something that Pope John Paul II emphasized throughout his pontificate. It is something I have repeatedly had to remind myself the last several years as I have tried to listen and follow God’s call in my life to start Project Emmaus and eventually create the Sacred Beauty Prayer Cards.
This journey hasn’t been easy. I’ve doubted. I’ve felt vulnerable. I’ve been fearful. However, I have been blown away to see how God has blessed and guided me on this journey. I’ve felt his presence and guiding hand which have calmed my fears and helped me persevere.
Amazing Prayer Experience
It all started several years ago. My youngest had started kindergarten and I found myself in a new season. I had more time for prayer. I was seeking God’s will and listening for how He wanted me to use my gifts. At the same time, my husband had encouraged me to use the time to pursue some interests. Photography was an area of interest but I didn’t know much about it. I signed up with Shultz Photo School and got involved with its supportive photography community. I was learning so much. It was fun and exciting!
As I was in prayer one day, God responded to me in the most direct way I have ever experienced! The daily Gospel reading and a reflection spoke right to me. It was the parable of the ten gold coins (Luke 19:11-27). When I read a reflection on the Gospel, it focused on first asking God to reveal our gifts to us. Then, asking God to show us how we can use those gifts to bear fruit in the world.
I took it all to prayer. “Please God, reveal your gifts to me and show me how I should use them to glorify you.” A prayer that I had been praying a long time. However, this time it was different. All of a sudden, all of these ideas started coming. I began writing them down and an hour and a half later (which flew by), I had a couple pages filled.
This idea eventually led to the Project Emmaus blog which features stories from people and their everyday encounters with God. There have been so many blessings through the blog from meeting new people and hearing incredible stories of faith to hearing how others have been impacted. It influenced my own faith and prayer life. Often times when I heard someone’s story, I felt God was talking right to me challenging me to work on a particular virtue or increase my trust in Him.
Listening and Growing
As I continued with the blog, I was learning so much about photography. One of the blessings from COVID was the opportunity to slow down and really enjoy the changing seasons. My family started going on a lot of hikes. The slower pace allowed me to really notice the beauty around me. I was taking so many photos and gaining valuable skills with all the practice.
Spending time in nature with my camera became a prayerful experience as I tried to capture the light and beauty. I began connecting Bible verses to various nature photos, and even found myself on the hunt to capture images that represented some of my favorite verses or saint quotes.
I felt God calling me to do something more with Project Emmaus to foster and encourage prayer. I kept praying and trying to listen. I began to learn about Visio Divina which uses images to draw us closer to God in prayer. That led to the idea of using photography, Scripture and stories to create prayer cards.
Bringing this idea to life has been a challenging but incredible journey. It has pushed me to be more intentional and to grow in my prayer life. It has prompted me to dig into Scripture and meditate on verses and Saint quotes that have spoken to me. This process has given my photography a purpose and has helped to focus and sharpen my skills. It has led to hearing more amazing stories of faith.
Of course, it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. There have been so many things I have had to learn, things that are not enjoyable…at all. Like figuring out all the paperwork and licenses you need to start a business, determining best shipping and fulfilment practices, and accepting payment on a website.
However, the greater challenges have been the fear, insecurities and self-doubt that have plagued me. There have been so many moments along this journey I have doubted myself and questioned my abilities. I feared sharing my work and ideas. I became discouraged and found that I didn’t know how to proceed.
When these thoughts of fear, insecurity and self-doubt hit me, I knew it was Satan. During these times, I had to go deeper in prayer. Often times, I would rely upon one of the Scripture verses I had gathered for this project to feed me truth.
It's funny because for as much doubt I felt, I continued to feel the Holy Spirit giving me words or guiding my path. I can’t tell you how many times during prayer, I received ideas for how to proceed with something I was struggling with, or how just the right words would come to me for a story. I have crossed paths with people who have been so helpful on this journey. I would receive a message from someone with such positive feedback at just the right moment when doubt was plaguing me.
When I started the blog, I was diligent to write down all of the blessings that I recognized. It helped me in two ways. First, I was more alert and open to seeing God’s presence. Second, during the times of doubt, I went back and read the blessings from God. They encouraged me to see God’s faithfulness and gave me the courage to continue.
I don’t know what God has in store for Project Emmaus and these prayer cards. But, I know whatever it is, it will be beautiful as only God can make it.
I hope and pray Project Emmaus and the Sacred Beauty Prayer Cards will sow God’s love deeper into your heart, strengthening you in your prayer and faith life as it has done for me. As you try to follow God's call in your life, remember, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10)!
When you reflect back on your life, can you see times when God was calling you?
How have you overcome feelings of fear, doubt and insecurity in the midst of following God's call?