Friday, March 17, 2017

How's your day been?

I've been to two talks lately where the speaker has mentioned intimacy with God but hasn't elaborated on what it means. That phrase 'intimacy with God' struck a chord when I heard it but I pushed it aside to think about later. Guess what? It's later.

I was in Adoration this week and decided to tell God about my day. I started off relating it like I would to an acquaintance, "Hi God. My day's been fine. I woke up later than I wanted and then just kinda hung around the house for a bit." In other words, I didn't really tell Him anything. Very surface level. Then I stopped and thought, What the heck am I doing? This is God I'm talking to. Of course He knows how my day was and how I was actually feeling. I might as well be honest about it to Him, especially since we're basically sitting face to face. So I started over. "Hi God. I'm gonna be honest this time. I was really bored today. And afraid. My anxiety felt like it was off the charts! I didn't do a lot of what I wanted to or felt like I should have done. I feel like a failure. I'm given so many chances but I feel like I always let them slip away. I never act right when I should. I mean, seriously, what have I been doing since graduation?!"

I really didn't expect an answer in words...but I got one. I heard Him say clearly, "I've been holding you." Believe me, I was in tears after that. OK, I'm kind of getting off track, but I wanted to illustrate my 'discovery' of intimacy with God.

This conversation I had with Him, when I decided to be honest and not hide any of my feelings, was so incredibly powerful and meaningful. It reminded me how well He knows my heart and cares about anything I'm feeling or thinking. I crave to be known and loved. It's a human trait. We want someone to say, "I see you, I love you, and you're not alone."

Many times throughout the day, I have little happy thoughts that I want to share with someone; things that remind me how much I'm loved or how beautiful the world is, etc. I plan on sharing stuff like that with my future husband. I want him to know me better than I know myself. I also want to talk about the mundane stuff, the most average and basic things that happen. I want him to be able to walk through my day with me. And lately I've felt like it's too far away, like I'll be waiting forever. Not true.

All of these desires of mine, I can share with God. Whenever I seek love, I'm really seeking Him. I can tell Him anything and everything, and He'll be there.

I encourage you to give it a try. If you have to, start with the facts of the day. When you stumble across an emotion, whatever it is, tell Him about it. Be honest. Share your heart. I promise it's worth it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A snapshot of a peaceful summer afternoon

Life is stressful. In class we often talk about topics that hurt my heart and leave questions clamoring around in my head, begging for an answer although a concrete one can't be found at the moment. It's summer time though and NoVA is so beautiful! As I was driving home from school today, the clouds were creating giant castles in the sky, taunting me with their beauty, so I decided to walk down to the little pond near my house for a picnic. I'd rather show you how it was then tell you, so read along and try to imagine you are here! I promise you'll leave feeling refreshed and peaceful. :)

The warmth of the sun on our shoulders as we walk towards the pond is pleasant and light. Passing the neighborhood pool on our right, we hear the squeals of delight from the little kids splashing around, enjoying their afternoon swim. The whole neighborhood has that lazy afternoon feeling about it, but you can sense that it'll start to bustle too soon with everyone coming home from a long day at work. After leisurely crossing the currently deserted street, we have arrived!

There's a little black squirrel bounding across the grass as we sit down on the bench in front of the water. A curious little Robin alights nearby, bobbing up and down as it walks around us. The pond itself is surrounded by towering trees that are various shades of deep green which contrast nicely with the light blue sky and giant, white, puffy clouds.

You can see the leaves of the trees across the way starting to ripple in a breeze that hasn't reached us yet. Before you know it, the canopy of leaves above us, shielding us from the sun, starts to whisper and rustle. Have you noticed that each tree sounds different in the wind? The greenish blue water of the pond is changing too, as mini waves gently land on the rocky dirt at our feet.

Gazing at the water, we notice the shadow of a bird above. We look up to see a brown and white falcon! Two ravens appear at that same moment and silently shepherd the falcon away from their nest which must be hidden somewhere nearby. As the birds disappear, our eyes are caught again by the clouds as they pass across the sky. Each one is different. Some of them are massive and impressive, with towers and pockets and too many shades of white and grey to count. The other ones are small, just a puff of white, but their beauty is still too marked to let them pass by unobserved.

Another bird silently wings its way above us, and look! It's a heron! There's so much to see here. I decide to close my eyes for a minute so I can soak up all the sounds around us and concentrate on the feeling of the wind as it dances on my skin. There is the faintest hum of cars in the distance. One or two drives by behind us. Some sort of bug buzzes next to my ear for a second and is gone. Little birds chirp and twitter back and forth to each other. The wind gently shakes the leaves. A fish or two tries to grab a bug off the top of the water and makes that plopping sound.

It's easy to breathe here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Limited?

I’ve got a lot on my mind. Wonderfully, it’s all connected. I think it’s an important set of ideas to consider, so that’s why I’m sharing this with you. 

(As a disclaimer, I’m merely presenting thoughts for consideration, not justifying my reasons behind them. If you’re curious or offended, I’d like to know so we can have a face to face talk!) 

In class today, we were talking about the conformist nature of American society. Basically, there are a bunch of ideas and social patterns which people are “expected” to comply with otherwise they’re labeled as bad or weird or bigots or whatever (insert your word here). I remember a poster in elementary school that had a dalmatian puppy with rainbow spots. It said “Dare to be different.” I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that phrase, there always seems to be a caveat or a ‘but’ coming. In my head, it really reads, “Dare to be different...but only in the ways that we say you can.” I’ve observed this both implicitly and explicitly in my own life. I bring it up here for you to mull it over and see if you’ve learned or observed something similar or if your experience has been different. There’s also another reason...

As Christians, we talk about the all-encompassing love of God for each of us; we go on and on about how He accepts us where we are and loves us no matter what; how nothing can separate us from the love of God. All of these things are good and true. I see a problem here though. It’s almost exactly like that poster if we’re not careful. I see, for example, something like “God loves you no matter what...unless you’re gay.” This is the problem. We are limiting God. We are putting limits on what He can and cannot do or say, who He can or cannot love. 

I don’t want to get into debates about the issue (at least not here). I do want to make you think. 
Do *you* limit God? 
Do *you* act in a way that makes people think there’s a caveat? 
When you say, “God loves you,” do you mean it the way that God means it? 
Do you understand how your view of God’s love reveals how you perceive it in your own life and circumstances? 

Life is not easy, not black and white, not straightforward. Lives are messy and complicated and intricate. Despite any variable, experience, circumstance, etc, no sin is too great for God’s love to conquer if we’re willing to bring it to Him. 


God is Love and love is one of the most unstoppable forces in the universe. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Out of hiding

Where to start? I've got a lot to say today that's been on my mind for a while, stuff that seems obvious but was operating as a giant block in my life. It's not easy to share this, but I think it's necessary, and I think you'll see why in a minute. OK. Here we go.

As I said, I've felt like there's been a barrier in my heart for a while. I can't exactly say how long, because I really don't know. For the past few months especially, I've been trying to figure it out, spending lots and lots of time and energy asking a million questions, testing every theory I could. It's caused a lot of frustration, doubt, and pain. Well, I think I've finally figured out what it is. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that it's true.

I promise I'll get to what "it" is in a minute. First, I want to say that my anthem for the year is Out of Hiding by Steffany Gritzinger. Give it a listen here https://youtu.be/iSvxaGA2pFo . It's a powerful song. It covers everything. I love it! It's not easy to hear, but it's real. Anyway, I was thinking about that song and thinking about what exactly I've been hiding from. It finally came to me, so obvious but poignant.

God is calling me to be real, and I've been hiding from that. 

There a lots of factors that convinces me that this is the truth. In understanding holiness as embracing yourself in all your strengths and weaknesses, embracing your personal struggles, and always striving to put other people first, (plus like a million other things) this makes sense for me. I also understand it as becoming more and more who I am, who I was created to be. As I've written on this blog before, I'm often afraid. I hide it pretty well, but it's the truth. I like being in control of everything, and I'm terrified when I don't know all of the variables. I hate being different or standing out. I hate being weak and vulnerable.

I've been living most of my life, especially lately, being satisfied with and often seeking out substitutes for real life, like getting wrapped up in tv shows instead of experiencing things for myself. Ironically, I pride myself on being authentic. (Btw, this is only a very superficial example. I've been experiencing this on an extremely deep level.) Let me say, there is no substitute for the real thing. It's left me feeling so empty and unsatisfied.

Suffering has been one of the ways that I've been painfully confronted by reality. In suffering, there's nowhere to hide or pretend that everything's OK. I've been suffering a lot lately, for various reasons. I can say now that I'm thankful for it, since it's helped lead me here. It's not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been necessary. I can say, humbly and truthfully, that it has made me more into me. This, again, is part of my journey to personal freedom, to holiness.

I can't hide anymore. I can't pretend I'm someone other than myself. I have to embrace me, all of me.

Lent is coming at the perfect time. It's supposed to help us sacrifice the comfortable patterns that we've fallen into, to choose to be courageous and stop hiding behind the false realities that we've created. Only when we've chosen this path can we really experience Holy Week and Easter as life changing as they are meant to be. As part of my Lenten journey, I'm planning on taking back my life, stepping out against fear, choosing to open my heart to any and all chances to follow Love (meaning God). I'd encourage you to do the same, however that looks in your own life.

I'd appreciate your prayers. This is part of my path to holiness but it's probably the hardest mission I'll undertake. I wouldn't have it any other way. In allowing myself to be open to what I'm really hiding from, I've discovered a freedom that's authentic. It's not fluffy or glamorous, but it's beautiful.

Thanks for reading this. It's one way that I'm choosing to come out of hiding.
God bless you. I hope that this Lent leads you to see how God's redemption is real in your life, so you can truly experience Easter joy!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Suffering

Suffering is something that’s been on my mind and heart a lot lately, especially since Grampy died and I started my internship. My heart has experienced real pain, whether it’s through my own sense of loss or through hearing about everything that my clients are struggling with. 

I know that suffering is a huge question and I think we’ve each wrestled with it in one way or another. I’d like to share a little piece of what I’ve learned these past few weeks. Maybe it will help you as you grapple with this portion of the human experience. 

A few years ago, my neighbor Pat died. I wrote my reaction to that here http://alwaysandineverything.blogspot.com/2012/07/its-my-party-and-ill-cry-if-i-want-to.html. What I didn’t share in that post was how I was learning to perceive suffering at that time.  Here’s what I wrote: “Our lives are a constant journey of becoming closer to God. What if, while being pulled into God’s embrace, we’re being pulled away from chains? Jesus Christ suffered on the Cross. He suffered pain and humiliation, and He was innocent. What He did, He did out of love. He chose suffering, so we could be reunited with Him in Heaven. Suffering, then, instead of a separation, is an embrace. It’s proof that we’re moving closer to God.”

I also remember reading in the Bible how the widows and orphans are the ones close to God’s heart and how He always hears their cries. I kept thinking that if He loved them as much as He said He does, then why do innocent children get horribly abused and why do people hurt so much. 

In sitting with my clients through their pain, I’ve had to start looking at it as a way to be closer to Jesus. For some unknown(but good) reason, Jesus is present in the pain but He still allows it to happen. It’s a ‘good’ reason because it’s God, and He is Goodness itself. And yes, there are many different points to be made about free will, etc, but I’m not gonna touch those; it’ll get too complicated. My point is that this idea of suffering as an embrace helped me to start being able to maybe wrap my head around the presence of Jesus in those moments. Since suffering is an inevitable part of the human experience (and it really is inevitable), then tying it to Jesus is the best thing we can do. Attributing meaning to it, even if it’s that God is present somewhere in the midst of it despite being unable to see Him or feel Him, allows hope to enter and start to shine its beautiful light. Hope always insists that life will get better. Allowing that little glimmer of light to enter your heart really opens the doors. 

After I’d reached this point of Jesus embracing myself and my clients in our suffering and being present to us, I started to wonder if there was anything that I could possibly do to help ease the pain. There is an answer. Simply being with someone helps; listening to their story, letting them cry, providing whatever encouragement you can, all of these help produce hope, even if it’s unspoken. Next, I thought of Jesus on His walk to Calvary and His death on the cross. There were people who walked with Him. Simon, the Cyrenian, carried His cross with Him. The Bible doesn’t say if they talked or what happened aside from them struggling to bear it together. Two innocent men were forced to carry a burden that neither of them deserved. According to tradition, Veronica wiped Jesus’ face. Again, who knows if she said anything to Him or He to her, but she was there when He needed someone. I can picture her wiping off the blood and His tears of pain and exhaustion. She provided a brief moment of rest to Him. 

The more I think about it, pray about it, read about it, and experience it, the more I’m realizing that suffering provides a lot of opportunities. 

Suffering typically makes us cry out, looking for a reason and help to get through it. If the person is open, it affords an opportunity for God to say “I’m here!” It opens us up at our most vulnerable and broken places, where true, deep healing is needed. That’s where God enters and can provide comfort. 

In my quest for answers, I found it helpful to read Salvifici Dolores (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html). While I haven’t come to any definite conclusions about suffering, I do know that it’s helping my heart to grow. I’ll be praying for you and that you can find some meaning in the midst of your suffering. It’s a mystery, but faith tells us that we don’t go through it alone. Jesus didn’t hold anything back when He died on Calvary; even His heart was pierced! Hopefully this is able to bring some comfort or at least remind you that there are answers to your questions, even if they’re unknown at the moment. 

As you persevere through your pain, I pray that you become aware that you're being held close to Jesus' pierced heart. God bless!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hope is a powerful weapon

Tonight I’m writing about Hope. Hope. It’s something that is vitally important and seems to be constantly under attack. I’ve always loved the idea of Hope, and now I feel like I’m actually learning what it means in real life. 

Hope is a natural part of the human spirit. It’s also a theological virtue, along with faith and charity.

Hope is a battle. I used to think that it was something that made a bright day even brighter, which it does, but there’s much more to it than that. Hope is so powerful because it can stare Despair in the face, and choose to keep believing and fighting. That’s what makes it so incredible. Hope says that there’s an answer and relief when all you can see is darkness. It’s an epic virtue! 

Hope is not a walk in the park. Hope is an anchor amidst the battering, swirling waves of darkness. Hope is what makes you stand your ground when you’re faced with a thousand foes. See? I’m telling you, it’s an epic virtue! 

Hope is a battle of the will against the evil that says life won’t get better. Holding onto hope requires an iron grip. Hope is standing at the foot of the Cross, staring at Love Himself dying, and knowing that He has overcome all the evil that exists. 

Hope is a sacrifice. It is a good that casts light into the darkness. Hope knows that Love Himself is here with you, no matter what you’re struggling with. 

Hope is beautiful because it's your choice. You can always choose hope, even when it seems hard, which is exactly when you need it the most! Hope is not easy by any means, but it is worth it and more powerful than you'll ever know. I pray that you always hold onto Hope. Know that I’m fighting along with you!


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blood, sweat, and fear

I've been thinking so many thoughts today! My mind has been swimming in a sea of thinking. It's a little crazy. Of all the thoughts I've had today though, I wanted to share one that really hit me the hardest (in a beautiful way!). In fact, it brought me to tears because it was so powerful. Hopefully it brings you some peace as well.

Ok. As I was adrift on the sea of my thoughts, I wandered into the question of fear. Fear is something that I experience often in my own life. I think it's also fair to say that it's part of the human experience. Fear is something necessary, but only really serves its purpose when it's not running rampant in your life. Anyway.

Fear. I was sitting in the chapel, having a very serious conversation with Jesus about it. I asked Him about His experience of fear. At first, I assumed that, because He's God, He couldn't actually have ever been afraid. Then I remembered His humanity, which means He did have to feel fear at some point in His life. Also, this verse kinda cements it: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

This got me thinking about specific examples in Jesus' life when He could possibly have been afraid. All of a sudden, it hit me.
           Jesus was so afraid(and sorrowful) that he sweated blood. JESUS SWEATED BLOOD! Whoa. His fear and sorrow were so powerful that it caused Him to sweat blood. That means Jesus can totally understand when I'm afraid of something, because He experienced it in the most profound way.

Not only did He have an unbearable amount of fear, He demonstrated the ultimate trust possible by immediately turning to God and declaring "yet, not as I will, but as you will." (Luke 22:42)

This was such a beautiful reminder to me that God is present in my life in every moment, because He understands what I'm feeling. He's able to walk through it with me.
The next time I'm afraid, I can think of Jesus' agony in the garden and be comforted. I can turn, just as He did, and invite God to have control of the situation. Once I've let go and placed it in His hands, He can give me some of His peace which surpasses all understanding.