By Jenna Ebener
The Catholic Messenger
(Editor’s note: Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)
I recently have been more conscious of offering up my worries to God and simply trusting in him. This feat is often easier said than done. When I started recognizing my need to let go of things I cannot control, I also identified that my soul was not yet at a place where I could simply let go.
My heart and attitude were heavy as the events of the past few months culminated. I was forced to witness effects of self-injurious behaviors I had no control over, and for which I did not have much input on how to proceed. These additional worries, coupled with upcoming deadlines and an already intense job, started to wear me down. I noticed that my optimism was waning, and I was losing some of my joyful demeanor at work. I realized how much I was relying on this worry instead of my normal optimism when, within the same week, multiple co-workers checked in on me. They noticed I was not wearing my constant smile in the halls and seemed overwhelmed. I saw that they were correct. The question was, how do I get back to feeling like myself? The answer, as always, centered on God.
Around that time I started a self-led retreat on merciful love and realized the necessity of trusting in God. In order to let go of those worries though, I needed to reset. I tried a variety of things. I made sure I was taking the time to do things I love, like rock climbing and reading. Not having any pets of my own right now, I cuddled with my friend’s cats. I took a mental health day and went to a favorite yoga class offered only on weekday mornings. Not having many relatives out here, I recognized I was thirsting for time with family, and my aunt came out to visit. All of these things definitely helped, but I was forgetting someone very important: God. What flipped the switch came in a way I was not anticipating, yet, in hindsight, made perfect sense.
I took a charism class around a year ago and identified one of the gifts God has given me in order to share his love and light: craftsmanship. I love making gifts for others, which includes making cards. After my aunt returned home, I sat down one night to make a card capturing the memories of our wonderful weekend together. Reveling in our time together and singing along to Christian music, I quickly lost myself in focusing on this gift. When I finished, I realized something: the lightness in my soul was back. During this selfless activity, my soul was completely unveiled to God, which allowed him free access.
I have often felt the joy and peace that comes with living out the charisms God has graced me with, but those feelings often came on top of a general feeling of contentment. Having a heavier soul before making that card, I experienced a shift that was obvious and instantly healing. While self-care is vitally important, I saw a second piece to self-care that may sound contradictory. I realized, more starkly than ever before, that the answer to joy and peace is partly in doing things for ourselves — but the true contentment comes from those selfless acts that bare our souls to God.