Turning challenges into prayerful sacrifice Print
Everyday Faith

Everyday Faith column by Julianne Nornberg

My children and I went strawberry picking today.

The field was damp and muddy, but the air was cool and delicious between rainstorms.

"Is this one okay to pick?" my youngest son asked, holding up a red strawberry that was white on one side.

"No," I said, "That one's not fully ripe yet." And so, he turned over more leaves, in search of the perfectly red strawberry just right for picking.

The berries, he knew, would be used in a strawberry shortcake for dessert that night, so we wanted the best, the juiciest, the sweetest.

No half-ripened strawberries would do.

And yet, I give God my own half-ripened strawberries each time I offer to Him my half-attempts at overcoming a particular temptation or my half-hearted efforts to increase an elusive virtue.

But deep down, when I know it's not my best, that's a half-ripened strawberry -- beautiful on one side, but pale and unfinished on the other.

Giving our best efforts

Our Lord, who has given His very life for us so that we may live in eternity with Him, deserves our best gifts, our best efforts, the best of ourselves.

But because He is a kind and merciful Father, He understands and encourages even our half-grown attempts because each of us is journeying in our own ways as His children.

Just as a small child unknowingly plucks white unripe berries from the plant and offers it, crushed, in his hand to his parent, so too did I give God my unworthy "gifts" in early motherhood: frustration, exhaustion, fear.

These were half-ripened strawberries then because I didn't realize at the time that I could've offered them as prayerful sacrifices, could've asked God to use them for the good of others.

Now I know better, yet I still falter. But I can get up again and try anew each day. And I can teach my children things about our beautiful Catholic faith that I had somehow missed, so that they can offer God the best of themselves sooner than I did.

Renewal opportunity

"For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love," said St. Josemaria Escriva.

"That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then, with God's help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!" (The Forge, #344)

According to St. Teresa of Calcutta, "A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your weakness."

And, as St. John Paul II said, "Don't waste your suffering."

With God's grace, we can strive each day to turn our own half-ripened strawberries into prayerful sacrifices, so that we can offer Him nothing but our best.

Julianne Nornberg, mother of four young children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.