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!