Sunday, December 4, 2011

Be still

"Be still and know I am God" ~ Psalm 46:10

There is something about Advent, particularly this year, that makes me think of the beauty and value of stillness. Perhaps it is the image of that still night in Bethlehem, amidst the starry sky, that the Savior was born. Perhaps it is the stillness of Mary's heart that especially comes to mind - her courageous "Fiat" to bear the Son of God and her singleheartedness to be obedient to God's plan; perhaps it is the beautiful description of how when Christ was born she "pondered all of these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Clearly, Our Lady was able to embrace the grace of living in the moment, contemplating the glory of the Lord in her heart and not letting the distractions of the world distract her gaze on the things of the Lord.

It reminds me again how I need stillness in my life. Or, more specifically, stillness in my heart. I am pretty good at "sitting still" and do try to not overload my schedule so much that I don't have at least some time for prayer, reflection, and contemplation. But the time I carve out for these things isn't always a number one priority for me as it should be. Even more so, I see the need in my life for stillness of heart. For having the grace to be still in the Lord -- to know that He is God. Such a simple statement, but what a profound impact it would have on a life that it truly penetrated.

There have been a lot of distractions in my life lately. Mostly good things -- new activities, new opportunities, new people and friendships. But in navigating new territories, my heart has definitely become prone to distraction. Wondering how things will work out. Wondering how all the pieces fit together. Wondering what I should say. Wondering what God thinks. Wondering what's next. A thousand thoughts clamor for my attention, and at the end of the day I find myself exhausted.

"Be still, and know that I am God."

If I could let this stillness seep in, peace would pervade, and those thousand thoughts will be quieted by the knowledge that there is just One that I need.

And in contemplating the One, in basking in this stillness I can wait with a steadfast heart for the coming of my Redeemer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not mine to hold

In my women's bible study, we recently talked at length about Hannah and her incredible faith. We marveled not only at the faith and perseverance of Hannah in her steadfast prayer to God to grant her a son, but in her complete surrender of offering her son back to God after He had granted her petition. That a woman could give back to God the very gift that she had been praying for, for so very long, is just mind-boggling. Somehow, in her intense faith, she saw that the greater gift was not just that God granted her a son, but that she could then in turn give her son back to God.

When God grants us a prayer, gives us that gift for which we have been so long begging Him -- isn't it within our nature to hold that gift as tightly as possible? To cherish it closely, never let it out of our sight, and, even though subtly, hold our arms around it protectively, so that it cannot be taken away from us?

Even if it's a little thing, just the hint of the possibility of a desire fulfilled; do we snatch it up and build walls around ourselves? Say to ourselves with satisfaction, "It's about time!" Or, on the other hand, do we hover around this gift, tip-toeing softly, making sure we do not mess it up, or do anything that might destroy the pearl of happiness that stands so precariously in our midst?

It could be a new job, a longed for adventure, the hope of conceiving a child, the blossoming of a new relationship, a new found consolation in the Lord, a refreshing peace of soul. Whatever it is, it is that Evasive Thing; the missing piece to our happiness that we have pleaded for, and pleaded for, and pleaded for. And for all we know, once we get a whiff of it, we better dare not let it out of our sight, lest we never encounter the opportunity once more.

It's funny, the lengths the heart goes to define, and mold, and protect its happiness. As if these things were really ours to hold. When in reality, "every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17) and it is offered to us in His perfect timing, for the glory of His name. I'm pretty sure that the sooner I realize this, and the sooner I acknowledge that everything is His, the sooner peace will prevail in my heart. As I was thinking about all of this and the little ways it is playing out in my life right now, I heard this song by Audrey Assad, "Everything is Yours." It was such a comfort and inspiration to me. A reminder to let go; to give everything back to God. The only thing that I am called to hold onto is the Love which holds me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

For friends

Recently heard this duet by Amy Grant and Nicole Nordeman, and thought it was so moving. Apparently it is based on the friendship of Ruth and Naomi. Once again, makes me realize the gift I have in friendship with so many beautiful, holy women. I am so grateful to be walking this road of life with such dear friends. Many of us single ladies know the joys, hardships, and confusion of this stage of the journey all too well. And one of the things that make the challenge much more bearable is by bearing eachother's burdens, by lifting eachother's faces, and by walking on His path, side by side as we try "to gather up [our] dreams/trying to hold on to anything". As the song says, "Until your heart, finds a home / I won’t let you feel alone / I’m with you, I’m with you, with you" Gals, your strength and perseverance encourages me; your friendship and solidarity blesses me. I'm with you!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Wow, I feel like every time I finally decide to write a post, I have to include some sort of an apology or introduction since it's been such a long time since I last wrote. Busy-ness is the main reason for my blogging silence, along with a lack of inspiration of topic ideas and just generally losing some interest, I suppose. So some random tidbits to get the writing juices flowing again...

1. Last month a few young ladies and began a bible study on the women of the bible. It's been wonderful to have fellowship with other young professional ladies like myself. Young adult groups have their place, as does lots of casual time spent in the company of friends. But there is something really special and valuable about getting together with other women who are in the same state of life as you (young and single) and praying together and encouraging each other to grow in holiness. I have already been very blessed by this opportunity, and am grateful for the added accountability and spiritual focus which it has offered me.

2. I have been thoroughly enjoying the autumn here in Tennessee. The days have been sunny, but cooler, and the leaves are on the cusp of changing colors. My parents and youngest sister came down to visit this weekend, and we had a lovely time enjoying Nashville in the fall. One of the highlights was attending a "Full Moon Picking Party", where hundreds of people gathered at a lovely state park to listen to bluegrass bands while sitting out on blankets and folding chairs under the starry sky and (almost) full moon. In addition to the main acts, there were dozens of small circles of "pickers' playing their mandolins, ukuleles, guitars, and other bluegrass instruments. Refreshments for the evening included delicious kettle corn. Tennessee culture at it's best!

3. My current spiritual theme in life is, trusting that I am where God wants me, while continually trying to walk forward into the new "places" He wants to take me. More than anything, these places are new ways of understanding, new risks I am taking, deeper ways to perceive what He has given me, in this very moment.

4. I am beginning to get hungry. I think I will make some Persian Lentil Soup for dinner. The sun is setting and it is starting to get chilly again. Perfect time for some soup!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Slow Work of God

by Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are all, quite naturally, impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
something new;

And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made
by passing through some stages of instability
– and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.

Your ideas mature gradually — let them grow,
let them shape themselves without undue haste.

Don’t try and force them on as though you could be today
what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make you tomorrow.

Only God can say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.

Give God the benefit of believing that the Spirit of God
is leading you, forming you, transforming you;

And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stopping by

I am afraid that my hopes of blogging more now that I am back into the fall routine haven't materialized much! Long, busy days at work have left me tired in the evenings, mostly tired of typing at a computer screen, and so the motivation to blog has been lacking. But I think many bloggers tend to agree that the updating of these slates tend to ebb and flow, depending on our distraction and inspiration. Tis the reality of writing, and life! But for now, I just wanted to stop by and say a quick 'hello' to my loyal readers.

And now, a photo for your enjoyment.

Pastoral Tennessee, via the Natchez Trace Parkway

More than (continued)

"These notes will have been entirely useless if they have not helped to bring us to a place where our happiness does not depend on the work we are doing, the place we are in, our friends, our health, whether people notice us or not, praise us or not, understand us or not. No single one of the circumstances has any power in itself to upset the joy of God, but it can instantly and utterly quench it if we look at the circumstances instead of into the Face of light and love that is looking down upon us - the Face of our own God.

This is the shining path, stretching away from the place where we stand to-day to the very heart of God. This is the shining path that shineth more and more as we walk in it."

~ Amy Carmichael, The Edge of His Ways

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Words for today

More than (3)

Psalm 4:4 ~ "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased."

"How can we reach the place where we can say 'More than'? Have you noticed that, from that place where you stand, there us always a shining way on the water, in the sunrise or in the sunset, or when a bright planet like Venus is rising or setting? There may be a hundred people on the shore, and yet each one sees that path beginning just where he or she stands. I shall never forget my astonishment when I saw this for the first time.

It is like that with the Bible. Wherever you are reading you will find a path that leads you from that place straight to the heart of God, and the desires of God."

~ Amy Carmichael, Edges of His Ways

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back to the grind

Well, it is officially mid-August, and we all know what that means. Summer is wrapping up, making way for the beginning of the school year. The sun is setting a little earlier each evening, reminding us that fall is on it's way. The carefree days of summer are soon to be replaced by the schedules, routines, and planners of September.

I am sad that the diversions of summer are officially over for me, but in a way, relieved to be back to more of a settled routine. It had been a lovely summer, brimming with blessings -- I feel so grateful for all the opportunities I had to enjoy new adventures, see new places, celebrate milestone moments, and visit with dear friends and family. Since May, I was in 10 states (4 for the first time!), attended 3 weddings, had a friend from Washington, D.C. to visit, a friend from Louisiana come to visit, a friend from Missouri come to visit, and my sister from Pennsylvania come to visit. During which, we explored the delightful summer fun that middle Tennessee has to offer (more on that later). I also got involved volunteering at a super fun cooking school at the Nashville Whole Foods, and began volunteering with women's ministry downtown.

My cup truly overflows, and I am so grateful.

Though I it is slightly depressing that the summer is drawing to a close, there is a lot I am looking forward to this fall. Classes start at the college where I work this coming Wednesday. I am looking forward to having the students back, and for the library to be bustling once again. (Although I might regret saying that in a few weeks.) I also have been working on several new projects over the summer that I am excited to implement this coming school year. I am looking forward to continuing to grow professionally, as well as continue to develop relationships with my colleagues and help foster community within the campus.

I am also looking forward to being a bit more diligent about my fitness and healthy eating endeavors, and to make that more of a routine priority. It is difficult to maintain a good exercise and eating commitment amidst all the traveling and company. Here's to buckling down and making that a big priority once again!

And of course, with more of a routine, is the hope that I can be back blogging again regularly!

How about you? What were the highlights of your summer? What are you looking forward to with the coming of fall?

But for today, on this Saturday in mid-August, the bright warm sunshine still boasts of summer ripeness. Perhaps I might even get to take a dip at my friend's pool. And in a few minutes I am going to head out to the local farmer's market where summer's bounty will still be abundant. For today, I will relish the summery-ness while it lasts!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Purple mountain majesties

I spent this past weekend with two good friends, camping, hiking, and sightseeing in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gaitlinburg, Tennessee. Taking in the majesty of the mountains, the awe-invoking vistas, the peaceful meadows, the bright green tree-canopyed forests, the burbling brooks, the clear rushing streams, the graceful waterfalls and the tiny trail wildflowers, was refreshing to my soul, indeed!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Edith Stein Project talks online

My summer continues to be rich and full of dear visitors (my sister came this past weekend!), new volunteer activities, and a busy work slate. Lots going on, but I still enjoy my periodic downtime when I can surf the blogsphere...although I usually don't have enough energy by that point to actually post something!

Something that I thought you readers might enjoy is checking out the talks from the 2011 "Edith Stein Project" held at Notre Dame, February 11-12. I had heard about this conference last minute thought it sounded really neat. The topic for this year's conference was "Irreplaceable You: Vocation, Identity, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Since I wasn't able to go in person, I was thrilled to find that some of the talks online. I would love to make my way through all of the talks. So far have listened to two, which I would love to share here.

The first one is a talk by Dorothy Cummings McLean (aka, "Seraphic Singles author): “Waiting for Your Marching Orders: Staying Sane while Single." I am a huge fan of her blog, and thorough enjoyed watching her talking online! It was delightful! She is just as good of a speaker as she is a writer. I would recommend this talk to any of you singles out there, wondering how you can live your life fully as beautifully while you are in the single state. I would also recommend it to anyone who knows single people. (Translate, everyone). It will help you understand the unique struggles that the single person faces and in turn, how you can best encourage them and challenge them along their current journey.

Dorothy Cummings McLean: “Waiting for Your Marching Orders: Staying Sane while Single" from NotreDameIdentityProject on Vimeo.

Additionally, the other day I watched the talk by Catherine Pakaluk: "Being Mary in a Martha World: Edith Stein on What Women Want." I thought that this provided an exceptional analysis of the vocation of women and the question of careers, motherhood, and vocation discernment. Dr. Pakaluk discusses Edith Stein's writings the vocation of women and the nuances involved in considering work/life balances for women. One of the best discussions of this topic that I have heard yet!

Catherine Pakaluk: "Being Mary in a Martha World: Edith Stein on What Women Want" from NotreDameIdentityProject on Vimeo.

I hope some of you find the time to watch some of these. I would love to hear your feedback, too! There is lots of fodder for discussion within both of these videos!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just peachy

I love peaches. They are one of my favorite summer fruits. Especially really fresh, sweet, juicy local peaches.

Now that I live in the South, I am much closer to "peach country." This weekend, I decided that it would be fun to visit a peach orchard and pick my own peaches off the vine. Although trekking to Georgia to get the full "Georgia Peach" experience wasn't really an option, I figured that finding an orchard in south central Tennessee was my next best option.

Hence, this Saturday, my friend Manda and I found a delightful pick-your-own-peach orchard just an hour south of Nashville. Manda is a native Southerner, hailing from Alabama. So she was able to add to the authenticity of the experience, along with sharing tidbits with me about peach preservation and peach recipes from her 'Southern Living' magazine.

The afternoon was just lovely. The weather, although quite hot, was sunny, blue-skies, and there was a nice breeze in the air.

I never realized peach trees were so pretty! I had just trying to capture the scene on my camera, although my cheap-o camera does not begin to do it justice!

After we arrived at the orchard, Manda and I strolled through the orchard with the provided wooden baskets and joyously plucked the peaches off the branches. We harvested two different varieties - Red Fury, a tarter, large peach, and the Contender, a sweet, smaller peach.

I think I gathered about 20 peaches or so. Some ripe, some still a bit hard so I can space out the use.

After we finished with our harvest, we sat out at one of the picnic tables, took in the beautiful rolling hills of the Tennessee countryside, and each enjoyed one of the warm, sweet juicy peaches. There is nothing like fresh fruit, sun-warmed and straight off the vine!

Now I get to experiment with ways to use the peaches. Yesterday I made a "Peach Crumble" which I took in to work with me and seemed to be a big success. I am excited to find creative ways to use the peaches, and perhaps even preserve some so that I can enjoy their deliciousness in the coming months.

Hope you enjoy some of the photos of my little orchard trip!

~ Yum! ~

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Submitting all things

Have you ever had that sudden, jolting realization about your spiritual life that for a brief moment, wakes you out of your spiritual stupor?

In particular, the realization that when you think you trusting, laying your life and your future in God's hands, surrendering to His will, suddenly as clear as day you see that there are one or two prayers that you do not believe God will answer? Parts of your heart that you refuse to lay bare to the Father, because you fear utter disappointment?

I struggle intensely with the tug-of-war between resignation to life's circumstances, and tenacious trust in God's power.

How do we expect that life will be full of our own "bitter cups", large and small, while clinging with hope against hope that Christ makes all things new?

I suppose that this is the Christian paradox, but one that we are called to wrestle with each step of the spiritual journey.

Do you with eyes lifted to the sky pray for the miracle, the gift? Or do you tense your back a little tighter because you anticipate the inevitability of the cross?

I am not graceful enough yet, to pray for the gift, to look into the Savior's eyes and plead with Him, that His will be done in my life. Is it that I am not brave enough to bear the cross? But I wonder if it isn't rather, that I am not brave enough to bear the gift.

I am not brave enough to realize that the Father, when I ask for an egg, will not give me a scorpion (Luke 11:11). I am not brave enough to trust in the depth of His love and the way that it covers all things in my life.

It is moments like these that make me realize that my faith often coasts on the firm grounds of life, but falters when it must leap.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to." ~ Philippians 4:6

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Words for today

"If, in the next life, we could feel sure of being met by even one soul who said to us, "Through you, God found me," I think that would be sufficient for our beatitude. And I don't think that, if it happens, the soul will be one that we consciously tried to instruct in Christian doctrine. It will be someone who noticed our certitude and our joy." ~ Evelyn Underhill

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Great Plains Tour

Hello readers! I thought I would stop in for a quick post before I finish cleaning my room this evening. It's been a busy few weeks, with family weddings and visits from out-of-town friends! It's lovely to be able to spend time with long distance relatives and friends and definitely has added color and liveliness to my summer.

Most recently of note, was the 800 mile+ road trip to Nebraska with my family for my cousin's wedding! What an adventure!

Throughout the trek to Nebraska we encountered various mishaps, including my Grandmother forgetting to bring dress to wear to the wedding, (and hence a impromptu shopping expedition in Des Moines, Iowa), my brother's car breaking down in Missouri and having to get a rental car while his got towed away, and the flooding of the great Missouri River causing a two-hour detour for our trip.

It was a very memorable time though and worth the mishaps we encountered. Along the way, I got to see four states for the first time: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. We decided to call our expedition the "Great Plains Tour", and that it was! I enjoyed seeing the lovely rolling hills of Iowa (who knew Iowa was so scenic?), the wind gracefully blowing through the prairie grasses, the expansive open skies of Nebraska, an art exhibit which payed tribute to Willia Cather (one of my favorite writers), and the St. Louis arch.

Enjoy some photos from the trip!

Pit stop, Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's Hometown

Iowa Countryside

Waves of prairie grass

Nebraska Sunset

4th of July parade in St. Charles, MO

St. Louis, Gateway to the West

Saturday, July 9, 2011

On problems, on finding joy

It's Saturday morning...I have a hundred things I have to do, but per usual, I am waking up slowly and pondering deep thoughts to harness some inspiration to tackle life's details.

Just a few quick thoughts.

You know how many churches, mostly Protestant, having sayings on their front boards -- often very cheesy, occasionally actually inspirational? The other day I came across one that really stuck with me:

"God's plans are bigger than your problems"

Sure, it's a simple and basic concept. But somehow the phrasing of it really struck me. Sometimes our problems seem so big. But remembering that God's plans are infinitely bigger than our 'problems' is so reassuring.

Secondly, I have been thinking a lot lately, probably as a result of some of the spiritual and recreational reading that I have been doing, that many days, we have to fight for joy.

What a better way for the Enemy to plant seeds of discouragement and dissatisfaction in our life than to attempt to rob us of our joy.

Because we are always fighting against this tension, many times we have to work to choose joy. So many moments in life, it is easier to succomb to dissatisfcation and discouragement than to keep our heads held high and trust in the joy that Christ promises.

Somehow, realizing that choosing joy is often a battle and not a given, is freeing for me. Recognizing that just because I don't feel joy at a particular moment helps me to see that it is not that joy is not elusive, but rather joy simply needs be named, sought and held onto with might and determination.

As Mother Teresa once said, "Let nothing so disturb us, so fill us with sorrow or discouragement, as to make us forfeit the joy of the resurrection."


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Short hiatus

Hello readers! Just wanted to check in and leave an update for those of you who check this place regularly. Due to summer travel, I haven't been able to update the blog for a bit - I have another family wedding coming up this weekend too, so the busyness continues. That said, I most likely won't get a chance to blog for real for the next week or so. Hope you are all enjoy your summers, getting lots of sunshine outdoors, and spending some quality family time at weddings, graduation parties, cookouts, and picnics. Hurray for summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Room for His joy

I love, love summer nights. I love being able to be outside until the later evening hours, enjoying the balmy air and the warm breezes. I love hearing the lulling sound of the crickets, love walking down the streets with the occasional frozen yogurt treat, and sitting out on a restaurant patio, or front porch with good friends and family. It's the best.

I thought I had a commitment tonight, but it turned out it was canceled, so I seized the opportunity to enjoy a warm summer evening outdoors. I went down to Centennial Park, the closest thing that Nashville has to a "city park", which is really quite lovely. It includes a reproduction of the Parthenon (random, but I am not kidding). But what I appreciate more are its pretty gardens, large winding pond, and weeping willows. There is a walking path that circles the circumference of the park, and I especially enjoy walking that path; it reminds me of one of my favorite spots in DC -- the Constitution Garden.

Today I brought a book with me to Centennial Park, and was filled with delight to find of of the wooden glider/swings overlooking a garden area open and calling my name. I spent a wonderful half an hour rocking on the swing, simultaneously reading Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts"

It's interesting, because today I ended up reading passages that book, as well as another book, which were uncannily similar. These sections both focused on the theme of relinquishing our own agendas, so that there is room for the joy that God seeks to give us. I wanted to share these passages here. Perhaps they will challenge and encourage you too.
"How is it that we can be so second-rate in the lives which we have chosen to lead, when in our calmest and truest moments we know that we are capable of the heights? Nearly always it is because we have chosen the lives we lead - or the way of leading them - and have not allowed God to do the choosing for us.

The mistake lies in refusing to look at the alternative that we do not want. We prefer to do our own will, even though it involves a second-rate performance, than to do the will of God which carries with it the promise of holiness and happiness. We know only our own desire: we know only our own desire: happiness and holiness can look after themselves." ~
Dom Hubert Van Zeller, O.S.B., The Inner Search

and then from Ann Voskamp:

"Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand....The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy - nothing else...Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life of material comfort? A life free of all trials, all hardship, all suffering? A life with no discomfort, no inconveniences? Are there times that a sense of entitlement - expectations - is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy?

...All these years, all these angers, these hardenings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy's fragile flame from the blasts. But palms curled in protective fists fill with darkness, I feel that sharply, even in this...and this realization in all its full emptiness: My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy.

...Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control...let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks...Fullness of joy is only discovered through the emptying of the will." ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blast from the past

So, last night a group of my close friends here and I got together for a girls night. After a delicious dinner of Indian takeout, we were chatting it up and suddenly got on the topic of American Girl dolls. American girl dolls were a huge part of my childhood, from the excitement of getting my first doll (Kirstin), to collecting their beautiful outfits, to getting together with friends and playing with our dolls for hours. One of my friends mentioned this article, that someone had recently passed on to her called "How your American Girl doll shaped the rest of your life." We all thought it sounded very intriguing, and so she found it online and read it aloud to us.

As my friend read the article, we roared with laughter about each description -- and even nodded our heads a bit and how much of it was true. Although I had three AG dolls, Kirstin was my first and probably my favorite, so I claimed her description. Much of it was quite accurate...minus me wishing pioneer dresses would come back in style. haha.

Naturally then this led us to the American Girl website so that we could show one of our friends (who emigrated to the US from India when she was in middle school and was unfamiliar with the American Girl doll phenomenon), these famed dolls. And then of course, once you are on the American Girl website, why not take some of their fabulous quizzes? Over the course of an hour, we figured out "What kind of shoe you are", "What flavor of ice-cream you are", "What Disney princess you are", and one of my personal favorites, "What kind of rain forest animal you are."

Admittedly, we all loved these sorts of quizzes when we were in middle school. Somehow they still have a hilariously interesting appeal with 20-something year-olds. Maybe it's kind of like how you and your single girlfriends can never quite be too old for M.A.S.H. (Or maybe that's just me and my friends. :-) Ridiculous? A little. Hilarious? Absolutely! Thank God for girl time, and for reminders of the simple joys of being a kid again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Pentecost Prayer

Holy Spirit,
Come and pour your Spirit upon me.
May your Spirit penetrate my life, and fill me with the grace of God.
I pray that the Spirit might give me all the gifts and graces that I need in my life, right now.
That I might remember that the now is exactly where God wants me to be, and His Spirit is sufficient for my life in this moment.
May the Spirit give me the grace of perseverance that in the midst of uncertainty and give me the strength I need to persist along the daily path to seek holiness.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, may I be convicted that I am being held in the palm of the Father's hand, and that His grace sustains me and breathes life into me.
Despite life's disappointments and struggles, may the peace of Christ seep into my being, and the triumph of the Cross be ever in my heart.
May the fire of God's love through the Holy Spirit renew my passion for faith, love, service, and life.
May the Holy Spirit set my heart aflame, and transform every crevice of my life, especially the deepest places known only to my Creator.
May I know, through the power of the Holy Spirit that God's presence will renew all that I humbly submit to Him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Searching and being sought

A few weeks ago I discovered the blog Witness to Hope, by Sr. Dorcee Clarey. You know how every so often you discover a sort of "kindred spirit" blog or author who really speaks to your unique perspective or struggles? I have found this one to be so. I am especially enjoying reading through some of the quotes that she posts from various saints and authors. I loved this quote that she posted the other day, and I thought I would share it here.

Radnor Lake, Nashville, Tennesse

"The condition of search . . . presupposes another condition that the words of the Mystical Doctor [St. John of the Cross] always imply. It is the condition of being sought. God is there in the shadows; He has been seeking the soul, inviting it, calling it to Himself with the cry of infinite and incomprehensible love. He says to every soul: 'I have loved thee by name; thou art Mine.' And this is no sudden movement on the part of God! It is a search that had no beginning. “I have loved thee,” He says, 'with an everlasting love.' " - Jessica Powers, OCD (article, "Who hath loved us first")

Happy Saturday. You are loved!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Sometimes I forget that part of the "style" of blogging is informal and unstructured, and so on days like today, where my focus is in several different directions, I can just list some reflections. These may or may not be related. Here goes:

1. This Sunday, the priest at Mass talked about the Ascension (we celebrated it here in Nashville on the Sunday, instead of Thursday), and focused on how before the Ascension, Christ instructs his disciples to "teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." The priest connected this with the importance for parents to provide good catechises to their children. He talked about how a parent asked a bishop (or priest, I can't remember the exact details), "When does the catechises of a child begin?" and the bishop responded, "12 years before the child is born." In his homily, the priest continued to talk about how the foundations of faith are laid long before the child is born; to the extent that the future parents form themselves spiritually and live a life of virtue 12 years leading up to the birth of their child, this is preparation of how they will catechise their child.

I thought this was a really fascinating reflection. Obviously, within the spiritual life, one must take into account the reality of continual conversion, and even if a parent has only just become serious about their faith in the past few years, they can still provide invaluable catechises for their children. But it really spoke to me as a reminder that the way I am living my life right now, is not just what I am doing for myself in this moment, but is forming me for what I will be called to give and teach in the future, in whatever capacity God sees fit. It was a really encouraging realization, that by cultivating the gifts and virtues and spiritual life to which God is calling me now, He is equipping me for something that I could be doing 12 years down the road for which this period of formation was integral.

2. Ok, that was longer than random thought, huh? On the note of singleness, in the past week I have learned that 3 of my good friends, with whom I had lost touch, are now in serious relationships. I am thrilled that they dating, and it does offer some hope - if they have found good matches after this (seemingly long) time, maybe there is hope for the rest of us. But there was also the reaction after hearing there updates, that this "us" of single people is a smaller and smaller group of friends, and there is always the fear that I will be one of the last ones to pair off. The smaller the singles fraction gets, the harder it is some days to be ok with this state of life. But I guess one must trust that with great crosses comes great grace.

3. And on the note of dating, a different friend, one who lives in Tennessee, met her boyfriend randomly at Krogers. They seem to be a very well-suited couple. My 9pm runs to Publix grocery store confirm this hypothesis to be true: meeting a cute, single guy at the grocery store later on a weeknight evening might just be the best place to meet a beau. ;-)

4. I had a really wonderful birthday, thanks to some wonderful friends and relatives who showered me with birthday greetings and made me feel very spoiled on my birthday. Although I was not as excited to turn 26 as I was to turn 25 (I really did think 25 was a cool age), I was not as traumatized to turn 26 as I was to turn 24. Go figure.

5. About a week before my birthday, I began getting more reflective and nostalgic about life. This song was on the radio, and it really moved me. I had heard it before, but in this moment I just felt like it was a word from the Father, telling me that this should be the "theme song" for me as I begin this next year of life. When I look at my life, I have so much to be grateful for. Although those who know me know that I can get sidetracked by discouragement and pessimism, I know deep down that I have been abundantly blessed, and I am beginning to believe more in the blessings of even the deepest mysteries and crosses in my life. This year has especially been evident of the glory God has manifested in my life in the way He has provided for me so evidently and so tenderly. When I heard this song, the line that struck me the most was "You ain't seen nothing yet / you ain't seen nothing yet / you aint seen nothing yet / open your eyes", and the way that God was calling me to believe that line with my whole being. We are called to recognize His manifestations of glory in our lives, but not to stop there. We must believe that His glory will continue to penetrate our lives in even deeper and more profound ways; this is the foundation on which hope lies, and in which our heart finds peace.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Makes for happy...

A really great workout at my gym (yay endorphins),
a trip to the public library to get some good summer reads,
the sun still shining at 7:30pm,
and the warm breeze gliding through my car with the windows down,
scallops for dinner.

Happy summer night. (Or almost summer).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Baked birthday surprises

It's not even my birthday yet, and I have already been showered with delightful homemade birthday treats two days this week. On Wednesday my dear friend Liza made me one of my very favorite desserts: fudge-y brownies. Perhaps almost as endearing as the surprising appearance of the baked good itself was the covert mission undertaken to discover my favorite dessert a few days earlier.

Apparently, Liza put my friend Joannie in charge of figuring out my favorite dessert during our Memorial Day weekend beach trip. I did think it was a little random when during a pause in conversation at our restaurant dinner table, Joannie asked all of us girls "So, if you could have your favorite dessert, what would it be?"

I mean, I thought we were pretty good at making conversation without "getting to know you prompts", but I figured I would go along with it and describe my favorite dessert. Apparently, this was a key success in the "mission-to-find-out-Maria's-favorite-dessert" mission.

I was delighted when Liza whipped out the brownies at book club in honor of my birthday, and even more amused (and surprised) when Joannie said that was why she asked us all at dinner about our favorite desserts. It suddenly made so much sense.

Then this morning, when I came in to work, one of our student workers had made a delicious batch of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing in honor of my upcoming birthday. So very delicious! And I was again, very tickled to realize that she had remembered my favorite type of cake in a passing conversation a few weeks back. Needless to say, I enjoyed some delicious red velvet cupcakes and coffee throughout the day.

I am so thankful for such sweet friends, who shower me with such sweet treats.

Today I celebrate 25. Tomorrow I celebrate 26. And the South Beach diet can wait until I am 26 and a day. :-)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sunrise at the sea

My Memorial Day weekend included a trip to Daytona Beach, Florida, where some friends of mine got married at the Basilica of St. Paul.

What a wonderfully restful and rejuvenating weekend it was -- a wedding, a vacation, and a reunion with old friends all wrapped into one -- what a blessing!

Five other gals and I stayed at a hotel right on the beach. I just love the ocean, and the way that it allows me to contemplate the wonder, glory, and beauty of God. On the last morning at the beach a few of us got up early to see the sunrise. Glorious, indeed!

"He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea
and everything in them— he remains faithful forever."
~ Psalm 146:6

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Words for today

St. Gertrude, on the great love of God ~

"Ah, wake up O soul, how long will you sleep? Hear the words I announce to you. Above the heavens there is a King who is held by desire for you, He loves you with His whole heart and He loves beyond measure. He Himself loves you so mercifully, and He Himself cherishes you so faithfully that for your sake He humbly gave up His kingdom. Seeking you, He endured being seized as a thief. He loves you so heartily, cherishes you so vigorously and jealously, envelopes you so powerfully, that for you He cheerfully surrendered His flower-like body to death. This is He, who washed you with His blood, who through His death set you free. How long will He wait for you to love in return?"

What a great Lover we have in the Lord.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Saint that is Just me - Danielle Rose

A reader shared this song with me, and I thought it was really beautiful. For those of you who struggle with comparing yourselves to others, (as I often struggle with), or even measuring up my feeble little attempts with those of great saints, take heart in this song.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Suffering, pleasure, and meaning in life

Over the past week or two, I have discovered dozens of new blogs, mainly by other Catholic women, that I was previously unaware of. (The wonders of hyperlinks!) This has been a wonderful and also dangerous discovery. So much new inspiration and solidarity to be found, but likewise, so much more time time to spend on the internet. :-)

I came upon this quote on Kate Wicker's blog (which is wonderful, by the way!) and I thought it was very relevant to my recent pondering on discontentment and the search for fulfillment. I think often I get stuck in the trap of forgetting that fundamentally, life is not about being comfortable, superficially happy, or hopping from one pleasurable experience to the next. When it comes down to it, the goal of life is to become a saint, and realistically, that will entail much discomfort, suffering, and hardship.

Perhaps that is why this quote from the book How Big Is Your God?: The Freedom to Experience the Divine Seeing with God Eyes by Fr. Paul Coutinho, SJ spoke to me so powerfully:

“Life is not pleasurable. Any mature person, any person with common sense, will tell you that life is full of suffering. Birth is suffering. Death is suffering. Meeting people is suffering. Separating is suffering. Saying hello is suffering. Saying good-bye is suffering. Life is full of pain. Life does not owe us pleasure; it offers us meaning. Pleasure is a by-product of meaningful activity.”

In the end what we need to search for are the meanings of our lives; and those little epiphanies of meaning which very often, are wrapped up in messy, confusing, and ordinary packaging of the day-to-day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

O that green grass.

flickr/ by Xelcise

Somewhere, always, there is greener grass, right?

Perhaps it is making more money. Perhaps it is finding the love of your life. Perhaps it is having children. Perhaps it is attaining a better figure. Perhaps it is getting another degree. Perhaps it is getting more personal acclaim and affirmation. Perhaps it is ___________ (fill in the blank).

"Grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-itis" is a syndrome that I have always struggled with. I think we all do, to one degree or another.

This morning when I woke up, dragging myself out of bed and not looking forward to another lonesome afternoon/evening ahead of me, I felt it's pangs.

If only I was married. If only I had a family of my own. If only I was more sanguine. If only I didn't experience this loneliness, these feelings of futility (Etc., etc.)

In my mind, I am constantly striving after an arbitrary set of standards and expectations I have conjured up for "the way things should be." Anything that falls short of these expectations, I often chalk up as another one of life's inevitable disappointments, or one of my own personal shortcomings. Boy do those pile up when you are looking for them.

As I made my way to the kitchen this morning to dump my same old cereal, into that same old bowl, I thought, that I simply must renounce such thoughts about how much happier I would be if "X" were different.

My life is all that I have in front of me. My life is everything that I have in front of me, and for that reason I should be in awe. Every beautiful, broken, gifted, and redeemed thing I have in front of me.

I have been reading the book "1000 Gifts" by Ann Vokscamp, and the premise of her book lies in the proposition to embrace our lives and everything in our lives as gifts from the Father, and it has really challenged me to think through this lens.

It certainly is not easy though. It's not easy to surrender dreams, and open your heart to God, fully and completely.

As I was pondering all of this this morning, I was thinking about what it all comes down to is giving up grasping. Because essentially, I am grasping for what I think would be best in my life right now. Grasping for a husband, grasping to start a family of my own, grasping for a carefree and burden-free heart, grasping for talents and gifts that are not my own. Grasping for that ever elusive green grass in the distance.

But does anyone truly find fulfillment in grasping for what is not theirs, or not theirs yet?

I know in my heart that grasping does not fill the void, but leaves us overextended, and utterly distracted.

I am certain that peace lies in a hundred little fiats, day after day after day. Especially uttering fiats in the most frustrated, lonely, and desolate moments that I do not understand. Perhaps the more I whisper fiat, the more my heart will follow, and the more that my heart follows, the more my grasping hands will draw open in joyful acceptance.

What we have in this moment is what He has for us. One day, after the all of the letting goes have untethered our hearts, that alone will be enough. Fiat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Married mamas: what would you say?

I have spoken often about the fact that generally speaking, single people have much more disposable time on their hands than their married (and child-rearing) counterparts. While some singles are better at filling up their time with commitments more quickly than others, the question beckons for me: how do I best use this time?

Now that it is summer session, my work schedule has changed from 9-5 to 8-4, and I find myself with even more free time in the evening hours. So, how do I most prudently and fruitfully spend my time, especially my alone time?

Learning new skills, like learning new cooking techniques? Or perhaps getting involved in more service opportunities? Reading some more of those classic books that I have been wanting to read? Or maybe I should take the road least traveled (at least in my life, haha), of cleaning and tidying around my house with greater precision.

I realize that this abundance of time is quite a gift, and one that a great many people are not fortunate to have. Additionally, I often think about the time and flexibility that a single person has as a time for cultivation. It is a time where we can cultivate our gifts and passions in a more focused way, and allow these pursuits to form our character for whatever long-range plan God has for us.

So as I was pondering my 'free-time' as I arrived home from work this afternoon, I began to wonder. When (if) I get married and have children, what sorts of things will I wish that I had focused on more during these years, hours, and minutes of availability? What things will I be grateful that I focused on and cultivated? What will make me a better person, and bring grace, peace, and joy into my heart?

And so I pose the question to any of you married women out there, as well of any of you mothers out there. (Not sure that I have all that many mothers that follow my blog, considering that I focus on topics of the single life, but I might have a few. :-) What would you tell to the single ladies that you know who have extra time on their hands? What skills to pursue? What opportunities to seize? What will form us to be the women God wants us to become?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Our perfect ideals

I have been struck with a heavy weight of discouragement the past few days, over a variety of facets in my life. If I could only believe this quote, freedom would come. And so I pray.

"I often think that the ideal of our perfection that we set up, and often go through torture to achieve, may not be God’s idea of how He wants us to be at all. That may be something quite different that we never would have thought of, and what seems like a failure to us may really be something bringing us closer to His will for us. " ~ (Caryll Houselander, quoted in Caryll Houselander, That Divine Eccentric by Maisie Ward)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Springtime impressions

The honeysuckle are bursting forth in bloom here. The greenway on which I often walk is teaming with bushes of honeysuckle. During my evening walks, as the sun pours through bushes and branches, I drink in the sweet, tender aroma that permeates the path.


The hillsides are bright green now, well-watered by all the rain we have gotten in the past few weeks. Since I moved here in the fall when the leaves had already started to change, this this my first experience of green Tennessee rolling hills. It's really a lovely landscape. Unlike the long, continuous hills of Pennsylvania, Tennessee's hills are truly "rolling", like large bunny hills, rising and falling across the horizons. One can also see the"ranges" of hills, each slightly higher than each other, in variations of green.


There is an owl that lives in the trees above my house. I noticed this sound the first few nights that I moved in. Nearly every night, I hear the "whoo-ing" of the owl. It has become a comforting, rhythmic sound in the evening hours. It makes me feel cozy, like I live in a forest or something. I still haven't seen the owl, but I am on the lookout.


This afternoon there was a violin concert under the magnolia trees in my neighborhood. It was in someone's front yard a few houses down from me. There were probably 100 people in lawn chairs watching the elementary school age violinists. Very quaint.


One of the things I love about my neigborhood, besides the fact that the majority of houses are darlingly cute cottage-style 1930s houses, is the prevelance of delightful front porches. Long wooden swings and rocking chairs line these porches, and I can just imagine people sitting on them in the summertime, drinking their sweet tea. Perhaps some of them end up being mainly just decoration when the folks opt for the air-conditioned living rooms rather than sticky front porches. But simply the existance of front porches creates a warm, neighborly feel, methinks.


Unfortunately, I am not one of those with a cute exterior house or a front porch. But I do have some flower pots. And a large magnolia tree which canopies my yard. At least a little quintessential southern flair graces my yard.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Surrender on a Saturday

Is letting yourself be
exhausted from the week,
whether exhaustion comes from a grueling pace or
a gruelingly distracted mind.
Is accepting the imperfection of what is,
and the unrevealed of what is to come.
Is recognizing the empty of an apartment as calm
Is allowing yourself to be who you are
without self-censure.
Is looking the stagnancy in the eye and
hoping for a flicker of light.
Is grasping for momentary gratification, but knowing that this way will only fall short
of the Way.
Is wondering, wondering, longing, accepting, structuring, tidying, accomplishing, hypothisizing, tiptoeing, insisting, believing, obeying, resting,
pushing through, finding yourself
in Something greater.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Words for today

“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.” ~ St. Augustine

Sunday, May 1, 2011

John Paul II, we love you!

What a beautiful day! The Feast of Divine Mercy AND the beatification of the Late Pope John Paul II! I woke up at 2:30am this morning and watched (most) of the beatification Mass with a friend. It was a very moving Mass, and I felt myself once again welling up with emotion and gratitude for this loving shepherd, JPII, who lived the message of mercy. EWTN showed various clippings of John Paul II, and it evoked the memory of how even through his appearances on television in far away places, the people of God could feel like he was speaking directly to you. JPII truly exuded the love and tenderness of Christ to the world; how blessed we are to have had such holy pontiff as he.

"Inner peace comes from knowing that one is loved by God and from the desire to respond to his love."
~ JPII, "Women: Teachers of Peace," 1995.

"Do not be afraid! Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure. He alone can give full meaning to life, he alone is the center of history. Live by him!"
~ JPII, "Mass with Youth, Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, 1997.

"Christ responds neither directly nor abstractly to human questioning about the meaning of suffering. Human beings come to know his saving response in so far as they share in the sufferings of Christ. The response which comes from this sharing is before all else a call. It is a vocation. Christ does not explain in some abstract way the reasons for suffering, but says first of all: "Follow me," "Come," with your suffering share in this work of salvation of the world, which is realized through my suffering, by means of my Cross."
~ JPII, Salvifici Doloris

"The search and discovery of God's will for you is a deep and fascinating endeavor. It requires of you the attitude of trust expressed in the words of the Psalm..."you will show me the path to life, fullness of joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever" (16:11). Every vocation, every path to which Christ calls us, ultimately leads to fulfillment and happiness, because it leads to God, sharing in God's own life." ~ JPII, Message to Youth.

Blessed John Paul II, Pray for us!!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The single person splurge

There is a fine line in the life of a single person between indulgence and frugality, frivolty and penny-pinching. I, myself, feel like I am often teetering on that line, usually leaning further towards the former rather than the latter. Today when I was grocery shopping in Trader Joes, I found a great saute mix of pre-cut peppers, onions, carrots, and seasonings for a swell price. This was a perfect buy for the single person, I thought, because it was just the right portion size, for a few meals so I could eat it before it went bad.

Then I passed the steak. "Hmm," I began to think. "These steak tips would be great with the saute vegetables." I thought. But when I discovered that the price was $8.50 or more, depending on the package, I had second thoughts. I rarely buy steak for myself, because it just isn't practical. But with the beautiful 70 degree, sunny weather outside, it just put me in the perfect mood for a steak saute.

I went back and forth in my mind, trying to figure out if I could justify buying the steak or not. I reckoned that it would probably last at least 3 meals for me, which wouldn't be that bad of a deal. Suddenly I just had this conviction (or my stomach did?) that I should buy the steak. Not just because I wanted to eat the steak, but I felt like it would be important as a single person to create a delicious, enjoyable meal in my own kitchen every once in awhile that was a special treat. Perhaps I am overly trying to justify myself, but I think there is something to the act of treating yourself every once in awhile for the sake of festivity (in this case, Easter festivity) and to enjoy God's culinary bounty. It affirms God's gifts, and it affirms the fact that you are worth buying a special treat to delight in every so often. It's all about storing up simple joys, such as taking the time to buy, prepare, and enjoy a more indulgent meal.

I made my steak saute for dinner tonight. It was delicious -- a real treat and a great way to end a beautiful late spring day!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen, Alleluia!

Happy Easter, dear readers! I just read Pope Benedict's 2011 Easter message and it is just beautiful. I want to share some highlights here. May the graces of the Resurrection be yours in abundance!

"The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness. Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth...

...Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven." (Benedict XVI Easter Sunday Message 2011.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

"Descent into Hell", Duccio di Buoninsegna, circa 1308

"Holy Saturday is the day of the ‘death of God,’ the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him . . . Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness; in his passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is he. Hell is thereby overcome, or, to be more accurate, death, which was previously hell, is hell no longer. Neither is the same any longer because there is life in the midst of death,
because love dwells in it.

Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil being unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise. " (Benedict XVI, Spes Salvi)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

I love this song by the David Crowder Band, "How He Loves Us." It's a beautiful meditation on the depth of the love of Christ, especially in light of the Passion. When you begin to doubt His love, think of the lengths He went to suffer and redeem each one of us. How He loves us.

I especially love the line in this song about our "afflictions eclipsed by glory." And I like to think about how my own afflictions are eclipsed by the glory of His love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy days and holy expectations

I think that one of the biggest challenges for me in the spiritual life is my desire for, and many times lack of, spiritual consolation. This is especially apparent to me during feast days like Christmas and Easter. During these holy and beautiful celebrations in the Church, I always envision that the day of celebration should be a sort of holy high - when one is filled with joy at the feast, overflowing with the love of God, and an overall sense of warmth and peace.

I can distinctly remember this expectation, and then subsequently, a let-down, as early as in my teenage years. Perhaps it is just because I am a more emotionally-driven person, very attuned to experiencing both the joys and travails of life primarily through feeling. That is just who we melancholics are. It has taken me many years to realize that just because I don't "feel" the overwhelming presence and peace of God, doesn't mean His grace isn't working in my life.

It's kind of like the sense that people commonly have when going on retreats, praying for very specific intentions and changes in their life. Many, myself included, secretly hope to have lightening-bolt experiences where the love and consolation of God is vivid and unmistakable.

But that's not how the spiritual life works on a regular basis, and more often than not, we are invited to look for the "intimations of grace" that He manifests to us ever so quietly.

It's a deeper love, and a deeper joy that we are offered, especially on feasts, holy days and retreats.

Amidst the family meal preparation, the it-could-be-better church choir, the lackluster homily, the 'ChristEasters' laughing and talking in the pew behind you, the unanswered prayers in your heart, and the dry meditation time after Communion, Christ comes.

Christ comes.

He doesn't magically transform the bothersome cacophony of all this back into perfect harmony in one fell swoop. That sort of harmony and the perfection are only a reality in eternity.

But in the space between our eternal longings and the earthly imperfections, Christ enters and transforms. The stronger we believe in the Incarnational significance to our fallen and imperfect circumstances, the more the Light will enter in.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In the throes of Lent

Well, my friends, here we are in the throes of Lent. As a local priest has explained at Mass over the past two weeks, we are now into the "tension Gospels", where the Gospels grow more and more tense each day, leading up to the culmination in the Passion of Christ.

Perhaps also, we feel the tension building in our spiritual journey as we strive to pass through this intense period of purification in our own hearts. I know I have felt the tension build in my life. Not necessarily in outward tangible circumstances, but in distinct disquiet of heart. Distractions, uncertainties, fears, hurts, and doubts creep in, and I find myself easily getting wrapped up in it all.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like one of the things that puts my heart in a tailspin most of all is discouragement. When certain fears, attitudes, and struggles pop back in my days again, I think..."Wait a minute! I thought I was over that!" and "I thought I had already worked through that. Why is it re-emerging again? Am I ever going to be free of [insert your struggle] again?" And then I begin to sink into discouragement, wondering if my efforts to overcome were futile.

I was thinking about this very vividly the other day. I felt as though the Lord was saying "I remind you of your struggles, your fears, your crosses, so that you can remember the weight of it all; So that you can know that in My passion, I bore those very sufferings. I carried them first, and I carry them with you."

Perhaps as the intensity of Lent heightens, we are reminded of our own sorrows more acutely, because our pain is never just our own --

For "surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrow" (Isaiah 54:3).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tax time

Few things in life make me crankier than the trial of tax time. For the last several years I have prepared my taxes primarily on my own, but thankfully have had my brother or dad around to at least look them over or help me translate complicated tax directions in person. I mean, is it just me, or does it seem like the tax directions are written in another language?? My brain hurts trying to figure out how they work.

This year I have to prepare my taxes on my own, and it's been a frustrating process, as usual. I am just not a numbers person, and rounding up all the necessary forms and figures is a challenge in itself. Thank goodness this year I discovered TurboTax and that has taken at least some stress out of the process.

Still, spending my free time crunching numbers and pouring over paperwork is not my idea of enjoyable. Especially since my taxes get extra complicated after living in two states, etc.

I am pretty sure that in purgatory we will have to crunch numbers and do paperwork like tax forms endlessly...certain sounds like suffering to me. On the other hand, if any of you dread this time of year as much as I do, I am pretty sure offering up our trials could get a lot of souls OUT of purgatory.

Tax time is just one more reason why I need to hurry up and find a husband. I will be happy to cook him dinner while he does my taxes. :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Resting in God's mercy

I think that anxiety about the future is a feeling we all experience. I know I experience this. Just when I am think I am comfortable and content with a situation or state in life, I begin to think to myself, "Ok, so, I am comfortable now, but what about in 5 years? I have no idea what I will be doing 5 years from now!" How cunning the enemy is: how he knows this will rob us of our peace.

I have definitely found myself to get caught up in this anxiety about the future, and in certain seasons of my life, this has been a more constant burden. Thankfully, as I am still getting settled and riding along the adventure of moving to a new city and having a new job, I don't experience this preoccupation with the future as much. I have enough adjustment and challenges to keep me busy now! But I have noticed that sometimes, the less I have to worry about figuring out in the present moment, the more room I have for anxiety about the future.

And so, as I caught myself on multiple occasions falling prey to this trap of the enemy lately, I have begun to strategize a response. When I begin to start becoming preoccupied by the "what ifs?" "what then?" "when, Lord?", I have felt the Lord calling me to reject these preoccupations, and simply rest in the joy and the gift of the present moment. It's ok if I don't know what the path of my future holds; none of us do. My faithfulness and peace is dependant on how fully I am able to surrender to the now. It's dependant on me placing my little heart in His big hands, and to rest, truly rest, in each moment given to me by the Lord.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shadowlands -- the play

Last night I did something I haven't yet been brave enough to do. Went to the theater alone. I always like to have a friend or two to go to cultural events with. However, last night I wasn't able to recruit anyone to come with me. I wavered whether I wanted to go by myself, but ultimately decided since I didn't have anything else planned and had read excellent reviews of this show, I would just go ahead.

Boy was I glad I did! The play that I went to see, Shadowlands, performed by the Lamplighters Theater in Smyrna, TN, was excellent. This played is an adaption from the movie, Shadowlands, and is based on the story of C.S. Lewis and his relationship with Joy Davidman.

The performance was truly moving, following the bittersweet friendship and love of the acclaimed Christian author and Joy. Joy and Lewis had been corresponding through letters, and when Joy, and American, comes to England and meets Lewis, a spark of friendship and deep understanding is kindled. They begin to fall in love with one another, but C.S. Lewis, a bachelor in his 50's, is cautious to admit his affection for her. When Joy tragically discovers that she has incurable cancer, Lewis is forced to confront the painful reality that true love always involves suffering. The prospect of losing her impels Lewis to declare his love and marry her. In the end, loss and heartache are inevitable, but the story testifies to the reality that true love is stronger than death.

The actor who played did an excellent job and really brought the character to life. It was fascinating to see how the theme's in Lewis' life corresponded with his thought and writing. It was also moving to see how Lewis was forced to grapple with the themes that he wrote on; pain and suffering, love and life, in concrete and heart wrenching ways.

Perhaps two things that struck me most were the way that God surprised and delighted C.S. Lewis by bringing Joy into into his life after he thought all hope of love and romance had passed him by. Their love was so deep and real, that even though they only had three short years together, they lived those years to the full, and that love changed them forever.

It also struck me how the theme of redemptive suffering was a constant thread throughout -- that it is through life's inevitable pain that our Father molds us. As C.S. Lewis says, in his works and in the play,

"We're like blocks of stone, out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in this world is not the failure of God's love for us; it is that love in action. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial is no more than the shadlowlands. Real life has not begun yet."

What a beautifully challenging Lenten reflection. Thanks to Lamplighter's Theater for such a provoking and moving performance!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The variety of librarianship

For those of you who follow my blog to stay updated on the happenings of my life, I am sorry that I do not provide more specific updates on my job. I feel that it is important to keep work/life boundaries, especially in the internet age! For that reason I feel it best to only talk about my job in general terms on this blog. However, I will say that for the most part, I am really enjoying my new job as an academic reference librarian. It is providing me with so many opportunities for professional and personal growth, and I am extremely grateful for that. It's also giving me a chance to dabble in different areas of interest, such as teaching, creating research guides, and even assisting with a writing program.

One of the greatest parts about being a reference librarian, many will tell you, is that no two days are the same, and there is always such variety to research questions that you answer. This really is true, I am discovering! For example, the other day I spent the morning helping students research medical-surgical procedures using complex medical databases, and I spent the afternoon helping a student research Plato and philosophies on relativism. My brain was truly huffing and puffing from such a drastic switch of topics -- this is arguably one of the only jobs where you could find such variety. A good intellectual workout!

For the endlessly curious mind. like my own. always asking questions and seeking to learn more while helping others, this is the perfect job!