Friday, May 19, 2017

Blessed Bewilderment

Have you ever been at a point in your life where you are thrust into the unknown, uncertain where to turn, what to do next?

Where you are suddenly walking down a hallway, knocking on doors, seeing what opens…but the hallway is dark and you cannot even see in front of you. Do you go to the right, to the left, to a door creaking behind you, to one in front of you that swings open?

I am there today.

A young professional suddenly in the throes of the unknown again. With the unexpected layoffs at a job and community I have been at for 7 years. A city I have become familiar with, a community I hold dear.

What does my future hold? What sort of work am I supposed to pursue? What are my biggest priorities? Where is my life headed in the next year? Next ten years?

I have been thrust into a maelstrom of uncertainty. Those waves and that storm and that boat? I’m in that boat with Peter. The storm will threaten to overtake me, if I let it.

Where is this boat headed, and who can calm this stormy heart?

And I hear a Voice saying to me, “Don’t waste this”

Don’t waste this sacred time, this blessed bewilderment where the only certainty I have is that Divine arms are holding me.

Don’t waste this opportunity to watch the Lord walk on the waters and part the seas. Because this storm is a sacrament where the Savior is seen with piercing clarity.

Every storm in our life gives us the opportunity to see Him in an unrepeatable way. And crisis intensifies the storm. Every storm reminds us how desperately we are in need of a divine Rescuer.

Tell us where to go, Lord.

Soon enough the storm will settle. Our hearts will settle. I will settle. I will settle into a new life, new routine, new normal. Soon enough, I will be comfortable again.

But for now I am unsettled. I am bewildered, and I am blessed. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Measure of Mercy

I don't know about you, but I have a difficult time comparing myself with others. It could be as vain as comparing my looks or my talents with others - or it could be a little deeper, like comparing myself with the amount of volunteer work or generosity of others. 
I think this comparison game plagues many of us, and social media has only plagued us with more blatant temptations for this. 

I often think to myself "I wish I had more energy so I could do X for more people." "I wish I had more money so I could give X to this person" "I wish I had more time so I could volunteer with Y." 

This morning I had a bit of an epiphany. It was like the Lord said "You have been given everything you need to show mercy in the way I desire.”

For some of us - that might mean a lot of activities - reaching many people, volunteering at a youth group, going on a mission trip. For others it might simply mean loving your husband and children by devoting your time, energy and love to them. Didn't have a chance to get your second cousin a birthday gift? Didn't get a chance to invite your pastor over for dinner? It's OK. 

For me I get caught up sometimes in discouragement from an inability to "do" things that I think (very likely) were not something I was needing to do in the first place. Surely - there are SO many ways we can get involved, we can bless people, we can give of ourselves. But don't measure your mercy in the ability to fulfill all of these things. Measure your Mercy in your faithfulness to love the people that God has put right in front of you. That doesn't have to be grandiose either. It could simply mean a smile, a listening ear, a hug. 

It is even MORE simple. Perhaps one of the deepest and fundamental calls is the call to show mercy to ourselves. Sometimes showing ourselves mercy is the HARDEST person to show mercy to. A wise priest at a retreat once said "We have to beg Christ for the Mercy to love ourselves." That has really stuck with me over the past decade. We need the mercy to love ourselves as Christ loves us - we are the Father's beloved creation.

We will find the ways He wants us to show mercy not by looking at what those around us are doing - not even by looking at the unrealistic standards or protocols we have devised for ourselves. We will only find these invitations by looking deeply into our Savior's merciful eyes. It is there He will reveal to us the mercy that we need to experience and the mercy that we need to share. 

"Let Jesus look at you. Place yourselves within the gaze of Jesus and welcome this gaze that looks at you peacefully and calmly, that loves you and sees your deepest identity. Jesus, who looks at us with hope and who, in looking at us, loves us, heals us, ad purifies us....Let us take these moments to look at Jesus with faith and most of all, to welcome his gaze and allow ourselves to be healed by it, to be healed of all of our discouragements, all the ways in which we feel guilty, our worries, maybe our shame. This gaze of Jesus can heal everything in us; it can purify and renew everything in our hearts." Fr. Jacques Philippe, Real Mercy.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

To shoulder the beams

I've been thinking a lot about the cross this Lent. Especially about how our own personal crosses are tied up into the mystery of the cross of Christ and how they are given to us, specifically and personally, to bring about our purification and sanctification. No one escapes the weight of a cross. Everyone, whether they appear to or not, is plagued with a cross, and sometimes many crosses. For some people, these crosses are crushingly heavy. Some, are not so much heavy, as lighter crosses that pinch us with splinters of annoyances every. single. day. 

Just when I thought I was rid of this cross!

It struck me today, how much of my attention I focus on alleviating myself of the weight or splinters of my crosses. I think about how great it will be to finally be healed of a health issue. I think of how I am going to improve my personal shortcomings that cause me frustration and discouragement. I think about not having to deal with difficult people. 

I think about being rid of pain. Being rid of hassle. Just getting to that one place around the bend when my cares could be cast aside in a more carefree life. 

I imagine a life when I have it all together. Seamless. Easy. 

Then of course, when the relief doesn't come; when the beams still weigh me down, when the splinters still prick and poke me, I think - wow. I must being doing something wrong. 

Still here. On my back. What?

Dear God. 

Suddenly it dawns on me. If I only spent as much energy striving to carry my crosses well; with a resigned and accepting heart as I do striving to alleviate them of dreaming of their resolution.

But the reality is, many crosses in our lives will be a persistent reality for the rest of our breaths. 

But it doesn't mean we are failing. It doesn't mean God is failing.

It means that we are still walking a long the road to Calvary; the road that leads to sanctification and eternal healing. 

We have another day to unite of sufferings to the Cross of Christ. To make His crucified Love present in the world, in the way that only we can do. 

We are all Simon. Taking that beam upon our shoulder. Making up for what is lacking. 


As long as we have breath.

We are afflicted. We are privileged. To shoulder the beams He bears.  


Wednesday, February 17, 2016 has begun

Well, Lent has started, and I feel as though this year, I am really going into the desert.

Before Lent began, I had this sense that God was saying,

"If He empties you, it is only so He can fill you more abundantly."

And so it began.

Have you ever felt like God was doing an excavation in your heart? That's what I feel like is happening to me this Lent. It's intense.

And you know what I want to say to God?

"Stop! Don't go there! We do not need to dig up that artifact! It was just fine in here until You came in. That dusty old thing that was crowding a corner in my heart? Just leave it there. I know, it's making me sneeze. That other rusty thing in front of me? Don't touch it. Just let it be. I know...I can't walk over it without tripping. But it's too heavy to move. And I'm used to seeing it sit there. Too much discombobulution, Lord. Stop digging. It hurts. Stop clearing. I don't want to be disturbed. JUST LEAVE IT."

But God loves me too much to just leave it. He is making space. He is tearing me down.

If He tears down, it is only to build me back up.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Waiting with Our Lady

Today I was meditating on the Visitation, when Our Lady visited her cousin Elizabeth. I was thinking about how many times I have had that friend who has come to me in my time of need. Come to me in person, come to me in a phone conversation, or come to me in an e-mail or letter. A friend who says exactly the right words at the right time. Who listens to my sorrows, comforts me in my anxiety, rejoices with me in my joy, offers me words of wisdom in my time of perplexity. Their visit is a relief, comfort, Godsend, blessing.

As I was thinking about The Visitation, I was thinking about how, beautiful this event is. It expresses the friendship and love between Our Lady and St. Elizabeth as they share the unfolding of God's plan - Mary, with Child, the Son of God;  Elizabeth, with Child, St. John the Baptist.

Mary doesn't just visit Elizabeth, though. The expectant Mary will come visit US, if we just ask her to. This Advent, she will come to us, with the same joy of the expectancy with which she went to visit her cousin. She will come to us, the with the same fulfilled Promise with which she came to share with Elizabeth. If we ask her to come be with us, to stay with us, that same power of the Christ child will stir our hearts, just like it stirred the heart of St. John the Baptist - even in his mother's womb.

Mary is the best friend that could come to visit us. She too will listen to us, comfort us, rejoice with us, inspire us. And most of all, during this Advent season, Mary will teach us, in a perfect way, how to wait for the Savior - in joyful hope.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Advent Season of...Me?

Advent is this Sunday, and I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do to make it a prayerful, meaningful 25 days. Something came to me tonight, that was rather unexpected. What if, this Advent, I focus on self-care, rather than self-denial? Sacrifices and penances absolutely have their place. But perhaps the Lord is asking me, for 25 days, to be especially good to myself. To be mindful of  my need to unwind, to rejuvenate, to be refreshed? To honor that need, to honor myself, a daughter of the King, created in the image and likeness of Christ. To intentionally try to temper the temptation to do, do, do, with the permission to be.

As it is, December is a month that tends to stress me out. Introverted me gets overwhelmed about the quantity of small-talk holiday gatherings I must attend, cookies and treats I must bake, gifts I must buy, etc. By December 25th, I just end up tired, and cranky and certainly not feeling very edified and spiritually prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ.

This past year as been an extremely busy one for me. It has drained me and stretched me and left me feeling pretty depleted here in late November. I am weary and worn.

But Jesus says come. He says to "be still and know that I am God."

How do I attain this stillness, this tranquil hush where I can hear Him whisper, "My daughter, you are Mine. You are beautiful. You are worth it. You are loved."

Perhaps for me, perhaps for you, this is to be intentional about self-care; perhaps it means creating and oasis of rejuvenation in the midst of a frantic, totally stressed out world.   Perhaps it is in creating that spiritual space - getting rid of the clutter - so there is a place for communion with the Little One when He comes at Christmas.

I remember once in a homily, a priest talking about our duty to love others; and first and foremost, the duty to love and care for ourselves. For if we don't first care for, honor, and love ourselves, we will not be able to be present and whole to those around us. Another time, a priest at a retreat while I was in grad school talked about how "we need Divine Mercy in order to love ourselves." We can be so, so hard on ourselves. We must ask Jesus for His Divine Mercy in order to help us see ourselves as He sees us. If we could do that; we would be receiving the most beautiful and perfect gift at Christmas.

So what will help me to be still? To settle? To be well? I think I will create a list, but for starters, things like making nourishing meals, listening to calming music, writing letters to old friends, gentle exercising, sweetly smelling candles and journaling may be some ways.

In giving myself a little extra care, may I be reminded of the sweetest care that He has for me. Maybe you will too!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Having it All

We want to have it all. We think we should have it all.

There is a pervasive syndrome running through our society today: the syndrome of discontent. We are never really happy with what we have. We always want that one more thing. Many times, these are very good things in and of themselves, but still, we covet. We grasp beyond the lot of what we have been given today. If I only had more money. If only I had a husband. If only I had children. If I only had more children. If only I had children who behaved. If only I had a bigger house. If only I had a nicer house. If only I had another degree. If I only had a more fulfilling job. If only I had more energy. If only I was prettier. If only I was healthier. If only I could travel more. If only I had more time to volunteer. The list goes on and on and on ad nauseam.  

We want it all. 

But you know as well as I - that as soon as we might arrive at one of those things on the list, we are craving the next thing. In the meantime, while we try to be happy and grateful with the gifts we have been given, we continue to long for the perfect life, in the perfect house, with the perfect stuff, and the perfect set of virtues, with the most perfect white picket fence. 

Anything short of this? Crushing discontent.

Because we feel entitled to each of these things. Because the culture tells us that we deserve theses things. Because why shouldn't we want to have it all?

I think that the reason many of us become unhappy and discontent is because we are measuring ourselves up to this extraordinarily fake and unrealistic vision of what we think our lives should be. We feel entitled to each and every one of these things. And when something falls through, or it doesn't come a long in the time frame that we expect, we are disappointed. And sometimes, even angry with God. But who said we were entitled to any of this?

Measuring our lives against these ideals of perfection is crushing our spirits, and robbing us of the precious joy we are meant to hold. The joy that was meant for us, even as we are purified by fire.

We were never promised and of these things. And we certainly don't deserve any of them.

But there are things we are promised. Things that will endure. Things that are meant for each and every one of us:

Faith, hope, and love.

"These things will last forever - faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor 13:13

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in: sickness or health, joy or sorrow, wealth or poverty, struggle or sunshine, these gifts are ours for the taking, they are ours in abundance.  We will never lack them, if we but ask. We can have them all. 

Everyday, no matter what is going right, no matter what is going "wrong", we have a chance to receive the gifts of faith, hope, and love. We have the opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and love. These gifts rise far above the confines of earthly life. They are carved into our souls; they lift our spirits; they mold us and strengthen us. The way that they adorn our souls is far more significant than the way any white picket fence adorns a "perfect little life."

In light of this truth, the lies of inadequacy and discontent can begin to fade. We can stop measuring our personal news feed against a backdrop of earthly perfection and ideal circumstances: we can start measuring our progress by the faith that is growing, the hope that is holding on, and the great love in which we "live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28