Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmas and the New Year: Preserving the Present Moment

Merry Christmas! (Because it still is :) I am still relishing in the light of my (tiny, Charlie Brown-esque) Christmas tree and I hope that you are, too!

And Happy New Year! Even though I begin my year-end reflection around the Feast of Christ the King (the end of the liturgical year), I cannot help but continue that reflection when we get the benefit of being introduced to a new calendar year as well. I love New Years'!!!

When I lived with my 2 roommates in Maryland- right after I returned from the convent- we would come up with themes for the new year. They usually had something to do with our dating (or lack thereof) relationships: "The Year of High Expectations", "The Year of Low Expectations", and "The Year of NO Expectations" (You can see the progression of how one led to another :) were all themes for us at one point in time.

While dating and relationships continue to be a goal and theme in my 30s, it is not necessarily what I want to make as a focus this year. Rather, as I was driving up to Philly on Dec. 31 to ring in the new year with friends, I quickly reflected and prayed on what my own theme for the year might be. It's true that I don't really have any expectations for this year. In 2012, I had so many weddings, I had prayed to be loving to all those I was going to encounter and to make the time in between weddings about taking care of me. That ended up being one of my favorite years. 2013 was the year of finishing grad school and moving out on my own, and I made 2014 the year of BUSY. But I have no idea what 2015 will bring!

I could make it another year of "no expectations", but I do think it important to make some kind of focus or goal if possible. As I look back on 2014, the idea of the "present moment" was huge. My friend Dan had taught us to love in the present moment. My women's group reading Cardinal Van Thuan taught us to hope in the present moment. During Advent, I was focusing on the Joy in the present moment. And being so busy last year, which was great, I regretted not holding onto those moments of 2014 more. So this year will be the year of embracing and preserving each present moment.

I am such a planner by nature. This makes me good teacher and also a good social coordinator for my friends :). However, I am always thinking of the next thing. This has also come up a lot with my spiritual director who also often has to encourage me to just stop and enjoy what the Lord is calling me to do in the present. And so, I think this should be a really good theme and focus for 2015.

I have heard it said that what you spend your time doing on New Year's Day is how you will spend the rest of your year. As I mentioned, this year I went to Philly. I have spent the last several New Year's with the same group (ish) of friends.

We usually find a hotel with an open bar and some kind of package that includes a band or DJ or dancing and then we crash at the hotel for the night. It has been one of my favorite nights of the year for so long, but I love dressing up and sharing the night with these guys.

And so, my New Year's Day often consists of brunch with this group and then driving back from wherever we crashed to rest off my hangover :)

Oh, except the year that we were in LA for NYE. That New Year's Day we watched the sunset in Palos Verdes and we all agreed that was one of our favorite New Years' ever:

This year, I awoke in 2015 to this view of Independence Hall in Philly:

Not too shabby!

We had brunch (though I must've paced myself much more sensibly because I was not hungover...yay for finally learning by 30!:) and then since I was in Philly, I drove a few more miles to see my favorite Philly resident and spend my New Year's Day with these two:

Philly Frands!!!

We spent the day chatting about friends, life, and watching a marathon of Portlandia. And then I got in my car satisfied and full up on friendship for 2015.

If there's a theme in any of know I will find it! :)  I think what I can say for these friends that I spent this New Year's with is that all of us have followed our hearts and embraced the "less conventional." None of us are married or in traditional relationships and we have embraced that. We live and love as God has called us uniquely to be and we own it.

I can't speak for these friends, but I know that I have struggled, and I'm guessing that they have too, with having to fit into the mainstream: being married with 2.5 children by this age, owning your own home with a yard, etc. My path was different: I joined a convent and discerned that for much of my 20s instead of dating. I've been called to a full time ministry and my friends have their own stories and paths. We simply don't fall into the traditional, mainstream convention and I don't think that we are fighting that. I think that we have accepted it and are relishing in it!

And so, I wish you all of the self acceptance and living and loving in the present moment that 2015 will offer!

Peace and Happy New Year,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I've Got That Joy, Joy, Joy...

Happy 3rd week of Advent!

The theme of joy has been strong for me this Advent. I shared that I am working on being more joyful this Advent season, or as Father helped sort out for me during spiritual direction, really just being more positive overall. See, joy is something that is more deeply rooted. I know that I have shared Aquinas' definition(s) of joy before because everything on this blog is cyclical, and I've been teaching the same course using the same lesson on joy for 4 years now.

But just for good measure (and my own sanity), I'm going to share them again. The Thomistic definitions that I share with my students are: delectatio (delight) vs. gaudium (joy). Delight is something that is sensory. I delight in music. I delight in coffee and chocolate. I delight in my students cracking a joke or a smile in class.

Joy is something deeper. Joy has to do with the attainment of the good. Just like Aquinas' definition of love: "The effective willing of the good of the other." Love and Joy are connected. When we attain the good, or joy, we want to share it, which can grow into love.

I have been focusing on this in my Advent prayer and in class, and I have had some tough reactions from my students this go around with this lesson. In the past, I may have gotten disagreements with the distinction between happiness or joy. There may have been some misunderstandings. But this year, I get...nothing. Almost no reaction to the material. And that startles me. Am I not getting the point across? Am I not being enthusiastic enough? How can these kids not care about JOY?!?!

Our culture, sadly, cares soooooo much about the sensory- what makes us happy. I have also been surprised this year about how many students think that happiness has the long lasting effect, and joy is temporary. The kids all want to be happy. But joy is much harder to understand and perhaps attain. And I make the point of saying that happiness is not always a good. Something can make us happy that isn't necessarily good for us. Joy is always about the good.

But then there is the whole thing about defining the good to begin with. Absolute truth is always hard for people to understand. People think that what is "the good" for one person is different for another. I want to be clear: "the good" is always the truth. And the truth is unchanging. Because God is unchanging.

All hope, however, is not lost. In this joy lesson, we also talk about prayer. And for me, prayer is a gateway to joy. It is an avenue for peace. My students often struggle with "how to pray" but my hope is not lost that they won't understand the importance of it. I know that they know it is important to pray. It's just convincing them to do it.

I wish that I could emphasize even more to them the joy that my friend Dan exhibited. I use with them quotes from Fr. James Martin's book "On Heaven and Mirth" and one of these quotes is "Holy people are joyful...because God is the source of all joy." I tell them that holy people may not always be "happy", but there is always this underlying peace and joy because they understand "the good" which is God.

Dan was holy and he was joyful. His joy came from his understanding of and relationship with God. And that transformed into love. The love and joy he had radiated from his person. Today is the 7th month anniversary of his death. This past weekend- Gaudate Sunday to be exact- was Dan's 34th birthday. It is not a coincidence that his birthday fell on the Sunday when we think about joy. I know that Dan had the most joyful birthday of all this year as he celebrated it with the angels and saints in complete union with our Lord.

My friends and I have committed to praying a rosary on the monthly anniversary of Dan's death. I said mine today reflecting with this little guy as I also reflect on the joy of the season...

Children are joyful because they are innocent and pure. When we start to mess with our knowledge of the truth and the good is when we start to mess with our joy.

So tonight, I'm praying about things that are joyful and meditating on things that bring joy.

I got much joy when I saw the liturgical color of WHITE on my iMissal calendar- Christmas is coming!!!
I received much joy meditating tonight with my Christmas lights on...

And this might be more happiness than joy, but my friends who make me funny memes bring me delight (and their friendship brings me joy).

You're welcome!

I'm going to use that meme forever.

Just an aside: the Pee Wee Christmas Special was one of the best ever recorded. If you can find that on the internetz, you are welcome in advance.

God bless you all! Keep the joy!


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Obligatory Advent Post! "Where are You?"

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Second week of Advent! I have been meaning to formulate an Advent post for a while, but these things require time and inspiration which I've had plenty of the latter, but perhaps not very much of the former! But I'm not complaining. I like to stay busy. Busyness, however, seems to be the age old antagonist for a reflective Advent.

I have always been "that student" that starts projects way in advance so there is plenty of time to complete them. I am not a procrastinator. So in true form, I made sure to start thinking about how I was going to celebrate Advent well in advance. When home in Ohio visiting family, I like to go to a perpetual Adoration chapel on Lake Erie. I probably have posted about it before:

When I was home for Thanksgiving this year, I had a couple of days before the first Sunday of Advent to reflect. My thoughts went to the typical theme of Advent: waiting. I've always found the waiting during Advent to be pretty easy. I do not, however, find waiting in general to be an easy thing to do. So I started to think about this. What makes waiting during Advent so much easier than waiting in  "ordinary time", Lent, or the rest of the year?

I think waiting during Advent is easier because we know the outcome. We know that Christmas is going to come and that it's going to be great. We know that Jesus coming to earth was and is a good thing. So that makes the waiting much easier: we already know the outcome and we know it to be a positive one.

Waiting is much harder when we don't know what will be and we don't know if the outcome will be positive. The only way to make the waiting a little easier is to live in the present moment, not worry, and to trust. Much easier said than done!

So I am trying this Advent to really soak in and live that easy, joyful anticipation for Advent so that I can get good at it and apply it when the waiting isn't as easy. I'm trying to be more joyful in the present moment which hopefully will translate well past the Christmas season.

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. At our school Mass, we went all out with the Marian music today: every song was Mary themed. I, myself, as a music minister usually try to diversify the selection a little more, but it seemed to be effective today, and I got a lot of compliments on the music for the liturgy.

The priest was a visiting priest and gave such an inspiring but simple homily. He examined the first reading for the feast which is the story of Adam and Eve. He brought to our attention that in this story we hear the first question that God ever asks mankind: "Where are you?". I had never thought of that before. The priest went on to apply that question to many aspects of our lives: where are we among the poor? Where are we in helping one another? Where are we with our relationship with God? And he told us to answer that question like Mary's fiat: "here I am."

It was such a beautiful way to connect Eve to Mary and us to the Scripture as well as apply it to the modern day. All in all what a homily should be! And it has given me something else to think about this Advent: Where am I truly in this present moment? Where am I in my commitment to God and joy this season?

It also relates to the book my women's group and I have been reading: Testimony of Hope by Cardinal Van Thuan. We had decided the last time that we met that we all needed to focus a little more on the virtue of Hope. There are many good points that the author makes in this text, but one that stood out for me ties in with these questions of the present moment. The cardinal points out that sometimes we are so focused on the "acts of God" that we miss God Himself. We focus on the results or outcome of our prayer rather than His presence in it. I just think that is another great insight as we contemplate active waiting in this time of Advent. Asking ourselves: "where are we?" and hoping that we can answer: "here I am- I am with my Lord."

I hope and pray that everyone is having a blessed Advent and happy "new" liturgical year!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014: Year in Review

I was at daily Mass yesterday and heard the words: "Today is Friday of the 32nd week in Ordinary Time" and thought to myself: WHAT.

That means, this Sunday is the Sunday of the 33rd week of Ordinary Time (yeah, I'm really good at Math and logic!) and that means soon it will be the Feast of Christ the King and THAT means ADVENT IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. Which means it is the beginning of a new liturgical year! SOON!

At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I seriously have NO idea where 2014 went. And that's 'cause it was really busy. Just the way I like it.

2013 was a little rough. I spent the first chunk of it locked up studying for comps, the summer working another full-time job, and the winter adjusting being in a new place alone for the first time. At the beginning of 2014, I was determined to make 2014 a far superior year. And I think that it was a success.

As has become customary for me in November as the liturgical year comes to a close, I take a look back at the highlights of this year. Of course, this year was also highlighted by my friend Dan passing away, and Monday will mark the six month anniversary of his death. Again, I don't know where the time has gone.

Before I look back at the year, I want to quickly talk about this past weekend as it meant yet another retreat with teenagers for me. And that may sound like I'm being negative, but quite the opposite. Sure, it was a tough weekend. It gets harder to have that much energy for 72 + hours with kids half your age. But for those of you who follow me on social networks, you will have noticed that I discovered Timehop in recent months, and for this analytic girl, I love the app because it shows me where I have been and how far (or not) I have come.

This past weekend, as I was on Kairos V with students, my Timehop app showed a picture of me from my time at St. John's in Youth Ministry 8 years ago. I looked kind of the same, except my hair was much shorter and, though I'm sure you couldn't totally tell, my face looked a little brighter and less weary. The girl in that picture was 25. Singing and playing the guitar in front of a bunch of teenagers (WITH, I may add,  a girl who had been in her ministry for two years and is now also a teacher :) almost exactly like the scene that was occurring that very moment as I had just again, 8 years later, sang and played guitar in front of many teenagers on retreat.

In that picture 8 years ago, I was 25 and totally thrown into my work with the youth. Discerning a religious vocation, thinking that I might enter a convent. 8 years later, I am still totally thrown into my work with the youth, but have discerned religious life, and am still discerning what God's will is for me.

Is this arrested development? Or is this God actually making it clear what I am called to do? Although I am a little tired and worse for the wear, I still find the work that I do so important and still find satisfaction when I hear teenagers pray and give testimony to the work that God is doing in their lives. Is that vocation? Is it weird that I still don't know?!

I also shared this weekend with my students about my friend Dan in a new way. They all said that they were moved by his story. I still can't believe he's gone. But as I realized earlier this year and shared with them on retreat, my relationships that are truly rooted in God have stood the test of time. As I scrolled through pictures from this year and through old text messages, they are filled with friends that have been around and made the cut because they are lovely people and I believe that God has brought them into my life. And my relationships truly rooted in God give depth and meaning to something as sad and heartbreaking as what happened with Dan. I have spent much of my career teaching about the Paschal Mystery, but Dan truly lived it.

2014 is going to be a tough year to beat! But I am super positive right now and the other thing I've learned from this year is to be discerning, but to live in the present moment.

Here's to 2014 and to the (almost) New Year:

 Ringing in 2014 AC style- Atlantic City!

 2014: The Year of Art and 100 days of Happy spearheaded by my friend Nicole:

Turning 33 and celebrating Easter/Dyngus Day in Ohio:

 Saying goodbye to a dear friend...

But knowing that his shining light is still with us....grateful for my CUA friends and this girl this year:

2014 was also the Year of Wine Club with these ladies!

And the summer of the Eastern European Roadtrip with my bestie:

Nannying 2.0 is much better after a little summer travel:

Lots of beach and fun times:

4th official 5k :

And so many shows!!!!
Fall VA fun: 

What a weird, wild, but wonderful year. Like I said, beat that 2015!

Peace, Julia

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Something More

I meet with my spiritual director about once a month. It is usually just a check in: I tell him what is going on in my life and he suggest how I might best approach prayer in regards to wherever I am at in my life.

Tonight, before I went in, I thought to myself: I'm not sure what I'm going to tell him or talk about. Everything in my life right now is really good, stable. My prayer is somewhat consistent and fruitful, work always has its moments, but it is ultimately going well, and I have been traveling and keeping busy building relationships in my social life with people I care about.

So, I started to think about it, and I have been seeing this particular spiritual director for 5-6 years now. I started meeting with him a few months after I returned from the convent, and he has been a constant in my life since. He has helped me get back on my feet when my faith was a little bit shaken after my plans turned out to be different than what I thought. But for the past year or two at least, I wondered if I had really grown at all or made much progress spiritually as life has kind of "settled" (as we put it).

Father told me that whenever we meet, the idea of "more" comes to mind. What more can I give? What more does Christ want to give me? This is always my mode of thinking, too, as I am a natural born over achiever :) I always want to know what more I could be doing to improve myself...but this is less about self improvement and "more" (heh) about my relationship with Christ.

It's true that it took me a while to realize after leaving the convent that Christ still wanted to have a unique relationship with me; that He was still calling me to be His "beloved", just in a different way. It's interesting that St. John the Apostle has kind of followed me around in one way or another through his many titles over the past 10 years or so: St. John the Apostle, St. John the Evangelist, and St. John the Beloved are all titles of churches that I have been registered at and all titles for the same friend, evangelist, and follower of Christ.

I, too, have shared many of the same titles: friend, beloved, evangelist, and follower of Christ. And working with my spiritual director has helped me to continue to grow in these roles, even as the single, independent woman I am today.

To kind of hammer home this idea of "more" and what "more" Christ could be asking or trying to give, Father brought up the story from Mark's Gospel about the blind Bartimaeus. The story is somewhat familiar: blind beggar calls out to Jesus for help, Jesus asks him what he wants. The man says: "I want to see", Jesus heals him for his faith. Done and done. But going home tonight and re-reading the story, I picked up some nuances that gave me so much insight:

- the beggar calls out despite being rebuked. In fact, it makes him call out all the more.
- when the beggar hears that Jesus is coming by, he cries out all the more and louder. More. Hmmm.
- when Jesus finally tells the apostles to bring the blind beggar to him, they tell Bartimaeus to "take courage."
- Jesus asks what Bartimaeus wants, even though the answer might seem obvious. As if maybe there is something else that the blind man wants or that Jesus wants to give.

Anyways, this passage tonight really made me think and I hope to continue meditating on it and all that it could mean in that "more" that I am looking for with Jesus.

Finally, though everything is going well and things are "settled' as we called it, I could always use improvement when it comes to my tendency to dwell on the negative instead of the positive in certain situations. For this, we turned to OF COURSE St. Paul.

St. Paul, despite persecution and trial, was always able to look at the good and find the joy and meaning even in suffering. He was realistic, which is why I like him, but ultimately positive and CONFIDENT that good would come from suffering. I will also continue to look to Paul for inspiration of the more that I could get from being positive in negative situations, while still being realistic.

Tonight, I am grateful for many things, but mainly God's Word and for blessings like spiritual direction in my life!

I also had an incredible weekend of traveling over the holiday (Columbus Day) weekend to see some amazing friends that I do not see nearly often enough. Saturday, I drove up to Philly which has now become a fall tradition to spend time with a dear college friend who always inspires me with hope, peace, and joy. We always find random shops or pieces of art around Philly to inspire us. Here are some pics from last fall and this fall with said inspiration:
 My taking in a "fall flower"

My friend serving up some peanut butter, antique-store-shopping style...

And from this year's trip...You can't blame the Youth (but I often find a way ;)

I also drove up (after my Philly trip) to CT with some friends to see our mutual friend give a beautiful recital for his doctoral program at Yale. The recital was two pieces: one instrumental and one choral, and both beautiful! I am so in awe of the people God has placed and continues to place in my life

Besties after the recital!

Again, so grateful for so many things tonight. Can't wait to see what "more" God has in store!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Surrounded by So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

I picked Hebrews 12:1-3 as the url for this blog long before I really started to understand what this passage is about. I made the selection because it had to do with perseverance, and as a college friend once told me in my early 20s, to her I was "Perseverance Personified." I took it as a compliment then, and I still think it holds true today, though the details surrounding this passage have spoken to me in so many new ways since then:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Since I started this blog seven years ago, I have come to learn more about what it means to throw off things that hinder. I have learned how to fix my eyes more closely on Jesus. And I have learned what it means not to grow weary or lose heart.

I'm sure I will continue to re-learn these things as I carry on to "run the race" marked out for me, for I still do not yet know fully all that that entails. I still do not know exactly what God has "marked out for me" and I'm not sure that we ever fully do. We just follow the part of the "trail" that He maps out for us at a time.

Today the part of this passage that struck me is the line regarding the "Cloud of Witnesses." I believe that I have blogged about this line before, but once again, I don't think I fully understood then what it would come to mean for me now, and I'm sure its meaning will continue to grow as I continue to "run" (slash jog/walk briskly which I've always been pretty clear about ;)

This week has been a powerhouse week for this "Cloud of Witnesses": namely, the Saints and people in heaven who look out for us and intercede for us. The week began with the feast of the Archangels (Sept 29), followed by St Jerome (Sept 30) (which may not be a powerhouse for some people, but for this nerdy Scripture scholar, creator of the Vulgate! Hello!). Then, of course, comes the Feast of The Little Flower, St. Therese, who is a fan favorite (Oct 1), and then the feast of our Guardian Angels (Oct 2). And today (Oct 4), the namesake of our current pope and another fan favorite, St. Francis of Assisi!

My parents were in town visiting from Ohio this week and I have always said (okay, well, probably not when I was a teenager) that my parents are way cooler than me. When I was living in the convent, I would call them and they would be out at bars, and they always have tickets to see my favorite bands (ie Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Black Keys, etc.) before me. They are busy every week giving tours of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by day, and rocking out at my dad's late night gigs by night. It was a blessing to have them here this week, but they kept me super busy and wore me out! In their early 60s, they some how have even more energy than me (which I guess isn't that much of a surprise, knowing how geriatric I truly am).

My parents rocking it in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall a couple of years ago at the Newseum.

So I was grateful to have the time in between late nights and early mornings this past week, the "Cloud of Witnesses" of these saints and their feasts to celebrate each day at Mass. Culminating, with the Feast of St. Francis today, Saturday, Oct. 4, for which, a Mass for my friend Dan Lyons was celebrated.

It is still hard for me to write about Dan in a way. I guess I still can't believe that he is gone, as generic as that sounds to say. But I have felt Dan's presence a few times since he has past and this Saturday, on my way to the early morning Mass was one of them.

Dan and I had a very playful relationship to say the least. I don't know how it was possible for Dan to be simultaneously the sweetest man but also the sassiest. He got my sarcasm and would give it right back, which is actually something I give bonus points for with my friends and relationships. But then he would give that incredibly sincere smile that humbled me and let me know he was only half being sassy with me just because he knew that was how I functioned and it was almost his way of reaching out and loving me. It makes me crazy to think that he was somehow messing with me and loving me at the same time! He definitely just got "it" a lot quicker than the rest of us do in so many ways.

When his wife told me about the Mass on Sat, I really wanted to be there, but it was early for a Saturday, even for my geriatric-bed-at-10pm self. I found myself simultaneously cursing at Dan and then smiling as I got in my car at 7am, but knowing this is was just his way, even from the next life, telling me that he loved me in the most enraging but perfect way.

We all, at times, struggle in our faith. I myself continue to struggle, even more so as I get older, with what I really believe, which is why I am once again grateful for the foundation I have been given. And I am grateful for moments like these that remind me that we are all connected and that life truly doesn't end. We have our loved ones in the "Great Cloud of Witnesses" to remind us of that. And I am grateful for that reminder.

I hope that you are enjoying fall! I'm gearing up for this to be the best fall ever!
Me in all of my gourd glory after some festival fall gourd picking!!!

During the fall, we often think about all things All Hallows Eve (Halloween!), but not so much the hallowed days which that eve leads up to...namely the days of All Saints (Nov.1) and All Souls (Nov. 2). I'm going to try and remember our Great Cloud of Witnesses not just on All Saints and All Souls Day but each day this season.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seek and Ye Shall Find?

While I try to have my Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, and various social networks fool my followers into presuming the contrary, I can usually be found most nights on my couch in my Snuggie watching Jeopardy and going to bed at geriatric hours. (I am fully aware that I am fooling no one.)

In the spirit of my geriatric Jeopardy watching habits (and the subject matter for this post), I have entitled this blogpost in the form of a question. For anyone who is a Jeopardy watcher knows: woe to the person who falters in their question-answer, lest they face the wrath of Alex Trebek.

I feel that this picture best sums up Alex and the frightening National Treasure that he is...

This post is about questions. And more importantly, how those questions can help us grow in our faith. 

You may not even have felt the need to ask this question, but yes. I am back at school. And yes, the school year is off to a good start. The routine of teaching is almost old hat now- this now being my FIFTH year- but I am grateful for my students and for the prompting of the Holy Spirit for always keeping even the most routine curriculum interesting. 

I like to begin my sophomore course with an excerpt from a US Bishops' document on "Living Faith." I've probably mentioned it here before, because this is now my ninth semester teaching this course (ahhh...WHAT). It discusses that faith should be "living and active" and suggests some things that adults should do to foster their faith. 

One of the things that the bishops' suggest is to question. I always ask my students if they are surprised that the bishops would want us to question our faith. This year in particular, the students had much to say about this point, but not in the way that I expected. Usually students think that questioning could lead to the person leaving (not living) their faith or the students are apathetic entirely. This year, most of the kids were totally on board and agreed that questioning our faith is really the only way for our faith to grow, and I agree.

There is a danger when our faith becomes stagnant. Whether that be thinking that we know everything there possibly is to know about our faith and that we are sooooo holy and don't possibly need to learn anything more OR that we completely reject everything that we've heard and don't care to learn more. We can't grow if we are stagnant, so we must continually search and ask questions. 

One of my students even gave me new insight into a Scripture passage that I thought I had down. She mentioned the parable of Jesus saying that we need to have faith like a child. We often interpret this story to mean that we need to just accept and trust like a child, but she pointed out that kids are often asking questions: "Why? Why? WHY?" Amirite? So in order to have faith- faith like a child- we need to question. 
I thought that was brilliant. I'm so grateful that I have a job that nourishes me in my own faith.

The other piece that comes with questioning, though, is that we have to be open to an answer. Jesus also says, "Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened." I, personally, have nooooo problems asking the questions, but it is trusting the answer that gets me. 

When a child asks a question, he or she trusts that you have the answer. They ask and then they accept. For me, it is not the questioning that is hard, but the acceptance. I have to trust that when I seek, when I ask, I will be given an answer and that it will be the answer that I was looking for.

I am forever asking the question: "Am I living it right?" (a la John Mayer "Why Georgia" circa 2002, of course)

Interestingly enough, neither Alex Trebeck nor John Mayer are men known for their humility or patience...

 And there's that temptation to look forward and backwards and say "if only" instead of trusting that God is doing His work right now in the present. I know this is a struggle for those of us who are single, but I've encountered it with some of my married friends with families, too. When I visit high school friends from Ohio, some of them do express concern with not having ever really left the town we grew up in. And likewise, I wonder if I could've done something differently to achieve the settled, stable status that they have acquired which seems to be the "American Dream."

But we know that comparing ourselves and asking those types of questions don't necessarily help us move forward. Those types of questions can actually make us become quite stagnant. They are helpful if they help us to accept where we are or move forward. They are not helpful if they make us quit searching as I discussed with my students earlier. 

I do question if I am sometimes off of the path that God has laid out for me. But it is this question that also keeps me coming back to Him. While many of my friends have found that great love of their life, I am reminded that my great love has been with God and His Church. He has taken me from Ohio to DC, to Guatemala to Spain, to NoVA to Greece to Poland. I've traveled all over this country meeting people in His Church through volunteer programs and have even gotten an inside glimpse on the vocation of religious life. And like that image of the child, I need to trust that God is taking me where I need to go.

When I question where I am and where I am going, the answer does ultimately bring me back to Him. So I must trust that my questions will continue to be answered in His way and in His Time as He has so many times before. 

I'm grateful for the journey The Lord has taken me on and that He continues to honor my questions with the love and patience of a Father and Friend. May we all learn to be patient with one another in our questions and with ourselves, but never stop searching.