Saying ‘yes’ to God may first require a ‘no,’ 140 at first Finding Your Fiat event told
EAST PEORIA — During a day infused with prayer, sisterhood, laughter and a few tears, women of all ages explored the many different ways there are to say “yes” to God at the “Finding Your Fiat” Conference. The first-ever event was planned by a group of Catholic women in central Illinois and filled the parish hall of St. Monica Church here on June 25.
The conference was preceded by a Girls’ Night Out at the Monte Cristo Room in Germantown Hills on Friday, June 24. Planned as a “coffeehouse meets cocktail party,” the gathering included hors d’oeuvres and beverages, and featured a concert by Curb Recording artist Marie Miller.
Jenna Guizar, the founder and creative director of Blessed Is She, was a speaker at both events. An online women’s ministry that provides the daily readings and Scripture reflections from more than 40 bloggers for 12,000 women each day, Blessed Is She co-hosted the weekend.
In her keynote address on Saturday, Guizar told the women that she couldn’t have said “yes” to Blessed Is She if she hadn’t said “no” to some other things first, including an all-consuming blogging career that took her attention away from her family.
WHEN TO SAY ‘NO’
“Think of something in your heart that is nagging at you — what do you need to give up to be filled by God,” she asked. “What are you doing that is not life-giving for you, your spouse, your kids?”
Guizar gave them permission to let go of whatever it was that the Lord was asking them to give up, whether that be a negative self-image, fear, embarrassment or addictions to alcohol or drugs. She asked them to write down just one thing they would do when they left the conference and encouraged them to take it to prayer and then share it with someone for accountability.
One Lent, for example, she gave up gossip and gained “looking for the good in other people and lifting up my sisters and brothers.” When her husband recently gave up a job, it allowed their family to say “yes” to total dependence on God, Guizar added.
“I can’t help but wonder what Mary gave up to say ‘yes,’” she said.
Guizar acknowledged that there might be some fear associated with giving up what they had written down, but told them to be at ease.
“The Lord has us wrapped up in his hands and says, ‘It’s going to be OK,’” she said.
SPENDING TIME WITH GOD
In the first keynote of the day, Meg Hunter-Kilmer advised participants to stop seeking God’s will — and start seeking God.
“We spend so much time in prayer using God as a Magic 8 Ball,” said the University of Notre Dame graduate and former religion teacher who now travels the world telling people about the love of God. “We spend so much time in prayer obsessing over ourselves and we’re not talking about him, right?”
While it’s not wrong to turn to God in prayer when seeking the answer to a question, the problem is that this is the only time many people pray, Hunter-Kilmer said. “When we spend that much of our energy talking about ourselves in prayer, there just isn’t that much room left for God.”
By telling God “I want to love you, I want to know you, I want to be here with you, I want to be here for you,” our hearts will grow closer to his and that’s where we can find clarity, she explained, promising that God would reveal himself not as a dictator or king issuing demands but as a Father who loves us desperately.
“The message of the Gospel is not that we are invited to a creed, but we are invited to a love affair,” according to Hunter-Kilmer. “You are a deeply loved, totally accepted child of God. If we believe that, then it’s not so scary to say ‘yes’ is it?”
In fact, saying “yes” to God is the only thing that will bring true peace, she said.
Getting there requires spending “real time” with God every day, Hunter-Kilmer told them, noting that she spends at least 45 minutes in front of Jesus in the tabernacle every day.
“I trust he’s forming my heart,” she said. “I give God time to speak and then I trust.”
Break-out sessions offered more suggestions for ways participants could find their “fiat” through special life circumstances, such as infertility, as well as their gifts and talents.
Bonnie Engstrom of St. Patrick in Washington said the conference drew 140 women from around the Midwest, as well as Arizona and Minnesota. Collaborating with her to provide a conference that was affordable but provided quality content were Molly Walters of Iowa and Abbey Davis Dupuy of Virginia, who helped her to get the ball rolling; Guizar and Nell O’Leary Alt of Blessed Is She; and Katie Bogner of Chillicothe, Annie Tillberg of Rock Island, and her own mother, Alberta Fandel.
EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the conference will be posted on The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.