Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

I've had some pretty exciting birthdays. Last year, I ran a half marathon in San Fransisco. Two years ago, I randomly decided to visit a friend in Denver. You get the idea. Every year, I wonder what my next birthday will be like. Let me tell you, I couldn't have even begun to imagine this year's.

My neighbor, Pat, died on Thursday. She was like a grandmother to me. She believed in me and supported me all through school. She was ecstatic when I graduated with honors in May. I'll never forget that moment when I told her. Two weeks ago, her husband, Dave, came and got my mom because Pat had fallen out of bed and wasn't speaking. My parents spent the next 2 days at the hospital. For two weeks, Pat didn't speak. When I went to say goodbye, she looked like she was asleep(so very peaceful). I told her I loved her, and how much she meant to me. Even though her eyes couldn't open and she couldn't talk, she squeezed my hand, comforting me. She was on her deathbed, and she was comforting me. That was her legacy. She always reached out to people, and made them feel special. She never forgot anyone, and was always invested. She touched and changed lives, often without either person realizing it.

Pat's funeral was this morning. The flowers were beautiful, the music was soothing, and the Mass was healing. Pat is the first close loved one that I've lost. I've never felt that pang of separation before. At one point during the funeral, the priest painted a beautiful picture of Heaven, and told us to picture Pat standing at the gates with Jesus and all the people that have gone before us, welcoming us home with open arms. That's what I'm holding on to.

I was dreading today in a way, scared that the funeral would somehow ruin my day. Instead, Pat has given me a beautiful birthday present. I'm reminded of the importance of family and friends, of treasuring the time I have with them. I'm reminded that God is the Source of all that is good, and that all that is good must and should return to Him. I'm reminded of the importance of reaching out to people, even if I barely know them. I'm reminded that building someone up, and sharing in their accomplishments(as well as their struggles), can change their lives forever. On my birthday, Pat reminded me of the gift of Life.

All this to say that today has been a beautiful birthday, in a way that I could never imagine. Even in the hardest times, God blesses us. Hold your loved ones close, but rest in the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe, the Source of all good things, will take care of them when it's time to let go.

God bless you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


"That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

I'm a perfectionist. I beat myself up for not doing everything completely right all the time. I'm afraid of failing. I'm afraid that I'm not good enough. I'm afraid that I'll make a fool out of myself by saying or doing the wrong thing. I'm afraid that I'll mess something up. I'm afraid that I will be alone. I'm afraid that I'll be forgotten. I'm afraid that I'll let my loved ones down. 

I am afraid. 

I've struggled with fear my entire life. It's my "thorn in the flesh". I've asked God to take it away, but He hasn't. Instead, He's asked to be able to work through it. Fear is my ultimate weakness, and He wants me to acknowledge that and let it become my greatest strength through Him. In realizing that I am weak, I realize that I need help. I don't know how, but it seems that a person who calls for help after a long struggle has become powerful. The act of reaching out and letting go demonstrates strength, though we often feel like we're at our weakest then.  

After we fail or fall, we experience the fullness of God's love and forgiveness. If we were perfect all the time, we wouldn't need those great gifts. God didn't come to call the righteous, or perfect, but the sinners, the ones who make mistakes. We may admire from afar a person who seems to do everything perfectly, but we love the people who are more human. 

St. Paul was a great man. God protected him from death many times, and Paul converted thousands of people. He talks about not becoming "too elated." I think that refers to pride and perfection. God used the "thorn" to remind Paul that there is tremendous power in being vulnerable. When we sacrifice and completely give of ourselves, we tap into a power that is beyond words. It's the power that can save the world. It's the power that can move mountains, and make the impossible become reality. 

I encourage you to look for your weaknesses and become familiar with them. Face them head on. Once you're aware of how weak you are, you can begin to experience the complete and total power of Almighty God. Don't be ashamed of your weaknesses. God loves you for them, and He'll use them to grow you into His version of a perfect person. 

Friday, July 6, 2012


I've been thinking about freedom, since the 4th was Wednesday. People in America always talk about freedom. Everyone makes a big deal about being free, but what does it really mean? When I was in grade school, kids used to say, "It's a free country. You can't tell me what to do." Is that what freedom is?

Honestly, I think it's a very tricky subject. It's hard to describe. I think a basic definition would be that freedom entails the ability to choose something, without having any confines or restraints. I feel that freedom, in the worldly sense, is always going to be limited. There are always boundaries. It's only when we step out of ourselves, and respond to a higher calling that we can cross any lines that exist. Love does that all the time. There's often no rhyme or reason to it. We fall in love with someone from a different race or religion or whatever, and we can cross the lines that have been set.

I've been struck by God's meaning of freedom. Remember, freedom means you can choose anything you want, without being forced. By our very nature, our bodies fall into sin. We're almost compelled to it. It's attractive and easy and pleasurable. God, though, in His infinite wisdom, created humans with a body *and* a soul. When we forgive someone instead of taking revenge, for example, we embrace our higher nature that comes from our immortal soul. We allow Love to come in, so we can reach across the boundaries.

The beautiful thing about God's freedom is that it is complete. He gives us each a choice. It's *our own* choice. He gives us the option to live free, or live enslaved. Enslaved. That's such a terrible word and idea. Picture thousands of men, women, and children, chained to huge weights, preventing them from moving. Picture the way the chains cut into their wrists and ankles. Picture their faces, full of despair and sadness. Picture them being forced to work, when they can hardly stand.

It's so sad, so hopeless. The miracle is that it doesn't have to be that way anymore. We can be free. My whole body and soul thrills at that word. Let's be free!

God gave me a choice. He set me free to live, seek after, and be whatever I choose.

I choose to live at the foot of the Cross, looking up into Jesus' loving eyes, covered in His precious, healing blood.
I choose to seek after the grace that comes through suffering and the offering my desires. 
I choose to be present with Jesus, wherever He places me, whenever He moves or holds me. 
I choose to be God's child in every aspect of my life and being. Every thought, word, and act will be for my Jesus.
He has given me abundance. I will share His abundance with everyone, so that I participate in bringing about the Kingdom of God, when He will be all in all. On that day, there will be no more suffering, hopelessness, sorrow, or heartbreak. On that day, we will all be truly and completely free.