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