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The Beauty of Being Present

As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to Divine Providence. Our task is to live holy the present moment.”

St. Gianna Molla

Every day was spent running, doing, and making sure I documented every part of it. It was all in the name of building a business, finding freedom for my family, and most of all–making a difference.

I’d wake up in the morning and check my phone. Workout, then post a story about the workout. Pray, post a story about praying. Eat breakfast, post a picture of my breakfast…and so on and so forth.

I spent evenings posting in groups, supporting my customers and friends, or checking off yet another box on my business activity tracker.

Looking back, I can see that even though I was doing the best I could at the time, I wasn’t stopping to enjoy all of the little moments, because I was too busy documenting them. 

In the Spring of 2017, I was struggling. I had published a book, participated in the 2016 Mrs. Virginia Pageant, and had just turned 40. On paper, I had achieved quite a bit. Still, the constant running was exhausting, and the postpartum anxiety was beginning to crush me.

In a virtual meeting with one of my mentors, she prayed as I poured my heart out, and afterward, she shared that she felt the Lord had given her the words, “Be still and know.” And that she felt the Lord was calling me to be still.

I remember thinking, what does it mean to “be still?”

A couple of weeks later, from a priest while in confession, ”Perhaps God is calling you to be still.”

A couple of days later, I was driving down the road and the song Still popped up on the radio, and as I listened to the lyrics, tears flowed:

“I believe that You were God alone
But sometimes I still try to take control
‘Cause I get scared when I can’t see the end
And all You want from me is to let go

You’re parting waters
Making a rain for me
You’re moving mountains that I don’t even see
You’ve answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still”

Three times. When God REALLY wants me to ‘get’ something, He KNOWS that I don’t take hints. So He takes His God-bat and bops me on the head three times.

Be still.

Be still.

Be still.

Listening to the song, Still, was the first time I realized that part of being still and being present is allowing God to take control. To TRUST that as I am allowing myself to simply BE with “I Am who Am,” that He would love me enough to part the waters and move the mountains even if I didn’t know they were there.

Looking back, I realize there were two deep-seated issues going on that God was preparing to bring healing and restoration into my life. The first was my need for control of my own life.

I grew up in a controlling environment. I had numerous experiences where people who were in positions of authority over me had not honored the positions entrusted to them, and I had been hurt. So, I had to have 100% control over my own life, and no one was going to take that from me.

It’s part of the reason why I was constantly go-go-going. I had to make things happen. Michelle always MADE things happen. If I didn’t do it, no one would. Or if someone else did it, it most likely would not have been done right.

So, as I was driving down the road and the words, “You’re moving mountains that I can’t even see” poured out of the radio, I cried, because I had one of those Holy Spirit moments that helped me to see and understand what that meant.

Let go and let God. When we learn to let go and let God, He WILL move mountains. He will MOVE. And the beauty of it is, He sees all. So, when He’s in control He already knows the me, the us, of yesterday, today, tomorrow, and our beautiful glorified selves. And He’s on the move. He’s GOT this. When we realize that, we have the freedom to give Him the control and to just be present in each beautiful moment.

The second deep-seated issue was the fear that I would never be enough. I can’t tell you how many times I had cried into my husband’s chest, deep sobs, asking that question,“Why am I never enough?”

I couldn’t see the beauty and value in myself. All I saw was failure and ugliness. I tried so hard and failed at the pageant. I tried so hard and failed with my book launch. I tried so hard, and my business was failing. I had tried so hard and my friendships were failing. 

Truly our Savior – Jesus saves. And as we lean into Him more, when the timing is right, He moves. He calls us by name, He breathes over us, and we enter into another time of healing and restoration.

michelle hillaert

Key words: “I tried so hard…”

I was always “trying so hard” to prove my value and my worth to my family, friends, social media community–to make things happen. I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t just be. Because if I did, then it would come back to that same fear that everything would fall apart, and it would prove the ugly truth…that I really wasn’t enough.

I just love our gentle Lord. Truly our Savior – Jesus saves. And as we lean into Him more, when the timing is right, He moves. He calls us by name, He breathes over us, and we enter into another time of healing and restoration.

I remember hearing the scripture,

The Lord will fight for you, and you need only be still.”

Exodus 14:14

That spring, I began for the first time to understand what it meant to be present. On a bigger scale, I learned to let go and let God and to stop trying to always MAKE things happen. To know that when I lean on Him, and do what I’m called to do daily, He will fight my battles for me and will take care of everything else.

Being Present in Everyday Life

If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Learning to be present helps in so many areas of our lives. In today’s society, we are inundated with expectations and opportunities. It’s easy to say yes to many things because they are good.

When it comes to the kids, soccer is good, dance lessons are good, music lessons are good, the play is good, basketball season is good.

For us parents or adults, doing great at our job is good, being involved in activities is good, volunteering at church or for an organization is good.

There comes a point where we’re committed to so much that we’re running in circles, and we hardly have a moment to enjoy what’s happening right now. We’re already thinking about what comes next and trying to navigate how not to drop the ball on everything.

As a mom with six kids, I can easily say that life can get extremely crazy. Before the pandemic, we were continually running–soccer practice, games, play practice, volunteering. I was just starting a new full-time job for the first time in years, and it was getting easier to put off family night or back off the nice Sunday dinners, because we were simply too tired.  

So instead of being present, we all found ourselves watching more television and disengaging from life in the evenings.

I LOVE how the pandemic has given us time to pause and rethink this craziness. Now, even though we still have quite a bit going on, it’s refreshing to be able to just sit outside and know we don’t have to be anywhere. 

What’s beautiful is that in the quiet of everything, my husband, Trent, and I have had this strong pull on our hearts for more.

More God…more YES (fiat).

It’s crazy how being isolated from the Eucharist, from the real presence of our Lord and Savior, has been a big wake-up call for many of us. It’s like waiting for Christ to come at Christmas… the anticipation…“Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel!” Ransom us, Lord!

We take more time now to lay in bed or sit on our back porch and read our saint books–St. Catherine of Siena, Julianne of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingham, St. Faustina… we have a stack of them next to our beds.

We’ve had more fires on our back porch, sitting and engaging with the kids. We’ve thrown the frisbee more. 

We still have a long way to go. Life is still busy, but at the same time, we’re aware of how crazy things were. We are actively working on backing off the media and just being more present – enjoying the gift we have been given in each other.

Being Present in the Little Moments

Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.”

St. Benedict

Let me ask you this. Up to this point in reading this blog article, how many times did your mind wander to your to-do list, or a problem you’re dealing with, or anything else for that matter?

We have SO much going on in our everyday lives that it’s tough to reign in our thoughts and truly focus on what we’re doing or who we’re talking to, to listen.

It’s interesting how being present and trusting are so closely intertwined. Have you ever just sat back and thought, “Why am I struggling with really being here? Ask yourself, “When I’m hanging out with my family or friends, am I really listening? Or am I listening to respond? Or is my mind simply wandering?”

In those times when you’re hanging out, and you have those “in-between” moments where there’s a break in conversation, how many times do you find yourself reaching for your phone to check your Instagram or Facebook or send a text message? 

It’s asking questions like this that can help us get to the root of why we’re struggling with just stopping and allowing ourselves to be completely immersed in every beautiful moment.

We need to take a deep breath and tune in to the world around us. We need to put down our phones and see what it is we’re missing. We may not realize it, but when we’re always letting our mind wander or constantly reaching for our phones, that signals to the person we’re with that they don’t truly matter. That perhaps they really aren’t enough, because when they’re sharing their time with us, we can’t let go of everything else and just enjoy being with them, or really tune in to what they’re saying. It sends the message that they aren’t as important as everything else.

I believe we struggle to be truly present because we have a hard time trusting that we’re not going to miss something important. Trusting that while my phone is down, God’s got the rest. Trusting that if we put down our to-do list for a moment, we’re not going to drop the ball on everything.

I read a book once that gave a tip that has helped me to refocus and truly listen when I find myself not paying attention. I stop my brain from wandering (I call it taming the wild mustang brain) and then take a deep breath, imagining the breath coming up from my toes and through my body. Then I focus in and absorb what the other person is saying. I was surprised at how well it worked.

If you find your mind wandering and are struggling with listening and being present, try it. Harness your thoughts. Take a deep breath. And dive back into the beauty found in the moment.

As you become more present, you’ll find that your relationships will be more meaningful, you’ll have a deeper connection, and life will truly be more beautiful.

Being present spiritually

God speaks in the silence of the heart and we listen. And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart and God listens. And this listening and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be.”

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

In our relationship with God, we find that being present is strongly connected with slowing down, and with becoming comfortable silence. It’s about allowing ourselves to stop having to do, to go, to speak, and instead to stop, to sit, and to listen.

In the Bible, when Elijah was waiting for the voice of God, it wasn’t in the earthquake or the thunder that he appeared, but in the gentle breeze…in the whisper. So, if we’re forever surrounded by noise and busyness, we may miss out on the beautiful relationship born out of hearing the voice of God in the silence of our hearts.

In reading St. Faustina’s Diary and the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, both Christ and God the Father talk about the importance of silence and how our relationship with Him truly blossoms in the silence. 

So what does that look like?

St. John Vianney once told a story of one of his parishioners who would stop into adoration on his way to work and on the way home. He’d leave his tools outside the church, go inside and just sit for long periods of time. When St. John Vianney asked him what he was doing when he was in there so long, the parishioner told him, “I look at him and he looks at me.”

Isn’t that beautiful? We don’t have to do or say anything. We just need to show up, let go, and let God. Now, when I go into adoration, I often find myself sitting there…saying nothing…just being still…being present.

When we learn to stop trying to explain ourselves to God, to trust that He already knows, and to allow ourselves to just “be” in His presence, it’s amazing how He opens our hearts and infuses us with His unfathomable love.

I love how the pandemic has challenged us to look at things differently. Without being able to receive the Eucharist or go to adoration, Trent and I found ourselves pulling up the online live adoration on EWTN and keeping it up on our screens during our workdays, so we can regularly take a few minutes here or there and just be in His presence.

There’s a beautiful live stream on EWTN’s adoration page of a church in Poland. The monstrance is Our Lady, and her heart is where the Eucharist sits. 

Oh, how I love this image. When I see it, I often think of the wedding at Cana, where even before the married couple knew there was an issue, she was on it. She knew their needs, she brought them to her Son, and even though He said it wasn’t His time, when she directed the servants to do as He commanded, He did it.

So I sit there and cast my worries upon the Lord. Entrust my prayers and intentions to Our Lady, and just look at Him, while He looks at me.

In this crazy busy world that is constantly filling our hearts and minds with things and worries, I want to encourage you to take time to stop and be present. 

Be present in your life.

Be present in the little moments.

Be present with God.

As we lean into Him, everything else falls into place. While we are still, He is moving mountains.

About Author

Michelle Hillaert is a wife, mother, bestselling author, coach, and a woman of vision. She is passionate about spending time with her family, making memories, and being intentional in cultivating an intimate relationship with Christ. As an entrepreneur, avid blogger, and website design and branding enthusiast, Michelle is a recovering perfectionist who gets a woman’s desire to strive for more. A mom of 6 kids, she is attuned to the needs of busy women striving to stay ahead while still being “good enough.” She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and best friend, Trent. They have fun creating a close family culture and sharing the lessons they’ve learned in over 19 years of marriage in their new ministry, Catholic Family Uncorked.

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