Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Touch of a Child

     Advent is a season of hope. It's so easy to be dragged down by worries though that we often let go of that hope. Jesus is the cause of our joy and that's why it's important to prepare for His coming as a baby, but also as our King. Here's a little insight I got during Sunday Mass recently:
      It was just after Communion and I was having a hard time focusing on my prayers. My eyes were wandering about, watching each person as they approached the alter. The last man in line was hard to miss; he was a big guy, probably about 6'2 and 250 lbs. As he walked away, he sat down in the front pew for a brief moment next to the tiniest little alter server girl that I've ever seen. I'm guessing it was his granddaughter, because he had a big, tender smile on his face as he looked at her. She got a big grin on her face too, and reached her tiny little arms as far around him as they could go, barely covering his belly in a hug. In that moment, I knew one of the reasons that Jesus came to the world as a baby.
     The touch of a child brings healing like no other. Just looking at that little face, gazing so trustingly and loving back up at yours, moves hearts. They're so quick to say "I love you" and mean it from the bottom of their little hearts that overflow with love. As much as adults take care of children, the children take care of our rougher edges and bring us back to simplicity. There's something about their innocence and their smile that can break down walls.
     Think, then, for a minute about Jesus growing up. He started off as a little baby, crying and completely helpless. Picture the joy that His first smile must have brought to His family, and the pride when He tottered around, taking His first steps. What did His first laugh sound like? What was His first word? Then think about how much healing He must have brought by smiling at the people around Him, innocently saying "I love you", maybe even to a complete stranger. What about how He could have boosted someones confidence by placing His little hand trustingly in theirs? How many people smiled when He laughed and felt their hearts move?
    If you're having a hard time holding on to hope, picture little Jesus trying to reach His tiny arms around you in a hug of pure love. Maybe He can only reach around your leg. Don't you feel your heart melting? :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Exploring IPS

    On day 3 of my trip to Washington DC, I made it to my real destination: the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. It's a Catholic graduate school for Psychology, located in Crystal City, Virginia. I first discovered IPS 5 years ago. After my first psych class, I knew this was the field for me and I immediately began to look for Catholic schools. So yes, IPS has been on my radar for a long time.  The first thing that caught my eye about the school was the banner across the top of the website that read "Do you have a vocation to heal?" To me, vocation is a powerful word. It means that it's a person's call from God to fulfill their specific purpose in life. Anyway, that's what I first loved about IPS.
     After all these years, I finally arrived at the school. While waiting to officially start the tour, I found my way into the little library that was packed full of books on Catholic things, ways to help families, famous Psychologists and their theories, and many other awesome topics(in my opinion). The tour didn't take long, as the school only occupies a small portion of an office building, and then I got to meet some students and faculty. Everyone was humble and friendly, which really impressed me. The best part of the whole day was meeting with the founder. She had a quiet voice but it was filled with determined passion and gentleness. She referenced Blessed JPII's Love and Responsibility, stating that too often, psychologists use their clients to some end and only seek to treat their symptoms, instead of providing real healing. She said that the IPS mission is to look at each person through God's eyes; that is, to see them for who He created them to be and not for what they've done, which means loving them as a unique human being. Establishing such a relationship provides the foundation on which to begin to rebuild lives. It's so incredible and powerful!
     What I can say at this point is that IPS is the real deal. It's everything I dreamed it would be and more. The union of Catholic theology with Psychology provides a view of the whole person that's based on their inherent worth and dignity as a human and seeking to bring about their greatest good. Sounds amazing, right? Who knows, maybe this time next year I'll be taking my first few classes. :) Whatever God has in store, I'm ready. Hopefully it includes getting to study at IPS. ;)

Exploring DC

       My trip to Washington DC was wonderful! I was able to see a friend for 30min in Denver, which was awesome. I almost felt like we were on a sort of speed date. haha Flying into DC, the first thing I noticed, aside from the gorgeous Fall colors of the trees, was the Capitol building. Next, I noticed tiny sailboats below, sailing on the Potomac river, speeding along thanks to the cold fall wind. After landing and getting settled in my hotel room, I ventured out into the city to find some yummy food. I met two Arabic men and their giant African-America bodyguard while I was waiting in a tiny little Chinese restaurant. They complimented me on the indoor soccer shoes I was wearing(the body guard stooped down to give me a high five) and then they promptly disappeared into the noisy bar attached to the restaurant. It was an odd encounter but I didn't think about it anymore once I was eating some of the best Chinese food I've ever had and watching MLS soccer on TV.
        That was day 1.
        The next morning, I was up early and riding on the metro, gearing up to see the sights of DC. I walked past the Arlington cemetery and across the Arlington Memorial bridge towards the Lincoln Memorial. I was immediately confronted by the huge tress that looked like they were dipped in gold or were burning with fire. Talk about amazing colors! I couldn't spend too much time admiring said trees because of the amount of runners on the bridge. I noticed that few of them had bibs from a race and it turns out that there was a 5k going on. How cool! By now, I was almost at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and I'm pretty sure I had a goofy grin on my face from seeing the runners. When I reached the top of the stairs, I gasped and was transfixed. Lincoln was sitting there in his giant throne, staring sternly towards Capitol hill. It got chills from the look in his marble eyes and they're still haunting me as I write this. He seemed so powerful, imposing, determined, and...beautiful! He appeared like a guardian of the people, reminding the lawmakers to protect them or face his wrath. Whoa.
     I made my way along the Reflecting Pool and thrilled to the sound of the wind in the trees. I walked around the World War II memorial and get teary eyed as I saw the tribute to the fallen heroes. The Washington Monument was getting some work done, so it was outlined by thick wire cages. I followed the well worn trail along the Tidal Basin that led to the Jefferson Memorial. The tall statue of Jefferson was also facing the lawmakers, entreating them to remember the spirit of his words. From there, I trekked along the National Mall, surrounded by enormous museums. On the large lawns that stretched towards Capitol Hill, there was an odd assortment of people playing pick up games of flag football, ultimate frisbee, and soccer. I had to laugh when I thought how much I was in awe of the history around me while they were busy shouting at each other to pass the ball or disc. Everywhere I looked, there was another statue or tribute. Finally on Capitol Hill, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of the incredible people who had stood where I was standing and seen what I was seeing. I may have cried a little at this point. ;) haha
     I caught the metro to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. My jaw dropped when I saw how huge it was from the outside and I could hardly believe my eyes when I stepped inside. I most definitely cried here when I beheld the beauty and power of God depicted in gorgeous mosaics from top to bottom of this incredible church. Mass was beautiful and the choir sounded like angels. I worshiped God in a church fit for a king while surrounded by people from many different nations and languages. It was incredible! After Mass, I explored every single side alter, icon, mosaic, and room, which took me almost 2 hrs. I got a real taste of the universality of the Catholic church as I was comforted by the many titles bestowed on our Blessed Mother by her loving children. Amazing.
    For the rest of the day, I continued to explore DC. I enjoyed the Air and Space Museum and the Botanical Gardens before walking back towards Lincoln at sunset. Venus was shining brightly by the time I reached the steps for the last stop of the day. My breath caught as I saw him again, this time lit up, still keeping his vigil of protection for his people.
     And that, my friends, is the end of day 2.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

God's creation

I went to a camp/retreat this weekend as a favor to a friend. During those few days, I was reminded how incredibly beautiful God's creation was, not only in the changing leaves of Fall, or the sky full of stars, but in His people.

God's been teaching me to be aware that everyone I come into contact with has a story of their own and ways that they're broken. Instead of simply taking the person at face value, I need to acknowledge their journey, whether I know the details or not. Thinking that way seems to make the people all around me more 3D.

At camp, I saw some of the girls open up. My friends were also honest about some of their struggles. And then it hit me again. A few years ago, I was struck by the seeming contradiction I beheld when a strong friend confessed that she was afraid. At that moment, I realized that I was seeing her as she truly was for the first time. It's odd. Here she was, telling me that she was afraid, almost like airing a dirty secret, and in that moment, I realized how beautiful she was. That's what I saw again this weekend.

For some reason, we humans like to pretend that we're invincible and perfect. When life is hard, we "grin and bear it" so no one will guess that we really don't have it all together. And that's just it. We all know we're just pretending, but we want to keep up appearances and so we let others keep their masks so we can keep ours. I've often wondered about this. Here's my "discovery":
       When we take off our mask, when we open up to others and show them our fears, we're not really showing them our ugliness.
God has created each of us and put everything within: weaknesses, fears, strengths, positives. He knows what's there because He put it there. When we acknowledge our whole, entire selves, that is, the good as well as the weak parts of us, we finally embrace who God created us to be. We can begin to see ourselves and others how God sees us. And it's incredibly beautiful.

God has created everything in this world and has declared it to be good. Unfortunately, because of sin, we have distorted some of the beautiful things. "But God's ways are not our ways, and God's thoughts are not our thoughts." Our weaknesses exist to point us back to Him, so we don't try to accomplish anything with our own strength. And our strengths exist to help build each other up.

I guess all this is to say that being vulnerable is beautiful because it's showing others who you truly are.
Acknowledge and embrace all of you, because God has declared you to be good.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


    I love watching tv shows and movies with superheroes. The feats that the characters accomplish are so amazing! They continue to fight against evil, no matter the cost, and the bad guy always gets brought to justice. There is always a point in the plot when it seems like the hero can't go on, and that's when I hold my breath, though I know they're going to succeed. At about that point, at least one of the hero's friends shows up and helps them keep going to their happy ending.
    As a kid, I definitely dreamed of being the hero one day and saving the world. As I grew up, more and more people told me it was a fairytale and could never happen. I'm a dreamer though, and I argue that we can be superheros, but in a different way. I know that I'll never have the ability to become invisible or fly on my own or have super strength but I do know that I possess special powers. I'm able to use words to help people realize that they're important and loved. I have the ability to listen to someone else tell me their troubles and be able to comfort them simply by being with them. I possess the will the succeed and to see justice and love in the world around me. And that's only the beginnning.
     In one of my favorite movies, Kung Fu Panda, the main character learns that the secret to limitless power lies within. "There's no special ingredient; it's just you." Think about that! We have all we need to succeed already within us. Life is how we learn to see those special gifts and abilities and put them into action. So guess what? My childhood dream can come true! I can be a superhero! I don't need radiation or a vat of toxic waste because I have all I need already inside me. Using my individual gifts to bring about justice and peace is what makes me a hero. It's ok if no one else realizes it, because all heroes have a secret identity.
    Use your powers for good and go help save the world! :D

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy thoughts that give my heart wings!

        I've been thinking about what makes me into Me. I've been thinking about what makes me happy and seems to give my heart wings. Here's a small portion of my list. :)

        I love seeing people happy and I want everyone to know that they're loved. I love running and playing sports. I love mountains and aspens and pansies. I love the sound of the wind in the trees and the sound of thunder. I love poetry and I love books about characters who were weak but became strong because of their struggles and with the help of their friends. I love beautiful, swelling music that almost brings me to tears because it's so soothing. I love imagining a world where anything is possible, especially being able to fly. I love huge, puffy clouds scattered across a baby blue sky. I love watching birds soar and wondering what it'd be like. I love listening to the sound of water, rushing over boulders and trees, and calming, stilling, slowing. I love pausing in the stillness to soak up the sounds around me and feeling myself take a breath. I love the stars and how they seem to shrink everything down but also remind me how big the world is. I love the feeling that I get when I actually catch a glimpse of how much I'm loved. I love the feeling when someone opens up to me and I feel a real connection and bond.
         Make a list of what refreshes you and makes you happy. I dare you. :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Driving home from Mass, the car in front of me caught my eye. First off, it was a Mustang. Secondly, they had a window stick that said "Got courage? Let go and let God."

That totally took me by surprise! I'd never really thought that courage could consist of letting go and trusting God. I mean, it makes sense when you actually think about, but the thought had never occurred to me. I often pray for courage, and I often pray for trust in God, but I'd never prayed with them both in mind.

Officially, the definition of courage is doing something that scares you. It's scary letting go, especially of future hopes and dreams, or of loved ones, or really anything for that matter. That's what God calls us to do though. If we let go, that means we're acknowledging that there's Someone out there who knows better. And I don't know about you, but trusting that the Creator of the Universe has a plan sounds like a good idea to me.

Courage: letting go and letting God work. That's what's up.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I've been reading Love And Responsibility by Pope John Paul II. It's an amazing book! He walks through, step by step, the fundamentals of human behavior in relationships, breaks down the various types of love that exist, and how explains how love develops. For example, he says "Love is always a sort of interpersonal synthesis and synchronization of attraction, desire, and goodwill."

JP II explains that love progresses from sympathy, to friendship, to betrothed love, to reciprocal love. He defines sympathy as "experiencing together." Next, friendship occurs, which requires shared experiences in order to grow. After friendship, betrothed love occurs, where each member of the relationship begins to make sacrifices to please the other. Finally, it progresses to reciprocal love, where "the acts of surrender reciprocate each other...they combine to produce a perfect whole, an act of mutual self-surrender." Reciprocal love is true love.

Here's where it gets even better. He comments on the battle between the sexual instinct and reciprocal love. "The sexual instinct wants above all to take over, to make use of another person, whereas love wants to give, to create a good, to bring happiness." That's why love should be based on friendship, as well as physical attraction; both are needed to balance each other out. He mentions that, since true love desires the unlimited good of another, it's a divine aspect of love because "to desire unlimited good for another person is really to desire God for that person: He alone is the objective fullness of the good, and only His goodness can fill every man to overflowing." Beautiful!

Part of the reason that I find this so fascinating is because I've seen it in my own life. I also like the idea that man has a higher nature, that we're called to strive towards, that is actually attainable. True love affirms the value of a person, and shows that a person "possesses spiritual perfectibility" and is more than "merely a 'body' magnificently endowed with life." Looking at love this way gives so much more meaning to life and is incredibly powerful. It explains why we spend our lives searching for another person to love us so passionately, and how it draws us out of our animalistic nature. I'm amazed and humbled that I've been on the receiving end of this love.

One of my goals is to move to reciprocal love with Jesus. That's my focus for this Lent. I encourage you to think about it too. And read Love And Responsibility! It will change your life for the better.