Monday, June 29, 2009

Catching My Breath

Happy Feast of Sts Peter and Paul! I have just returned from a week of craziness, but I had to post something on this great feast, even if just pictures of the blessings of my week!

I started out last Friday helping set up for a huge Workcamp (for those of you who don't know what Workcamp is- it's a camp for Catholic teens. They do community service by day and have prayer and a fun program at night. I used to take teens to Catholic Heart Workcamp when I was a YM, but Arlington is so amazing, they have their OWN camp!) and I stayed the week helping with evening program and music. I got to sing everyday with Steve Angrisano, which was a great experience, and God was truly present to me and all the Workcampers last week. He was physically present in the Eucharist (there's just something awesome about turning a high school into GOD'S HOUSE for a week :)but also very present to me in my faithful youth ministry friends and in prayer each day. Praise Him! It still makes me question why I'm not more in ministry, but one day at a time :) I'm enjoying the little opportunities He gives me.

After a blessed week of prayer and praise at Workcamp, I drove from VA to Ohio for a quick weekend celebrating my sister, Janet, who is getting married in Sept! We had her Bachelorette Party and shower this weekend and it was also very blessed. Everything went pretty perfectly, if I do say so! Though, it should, since I've been done this wedding stuff a time or two before in my day... ;)

Lastly, today is the feast of Sts Peter and Paul! Yeah! Two men that give me much joy simply because they are a reminder that God chooses broken, weak people to do amazing things! Peter- the man who tried so hard to follow Jesus, but still didn't always quite get it- Jesus leaves His Church to! And Paul- who persecuted Christians- fell in love with Christ and walked to the ends of the earth preaching and converting others! They do give me hope!

I'm home in DC for three days before leaving for a fabulous Fourth of July trip to LA, California to spend time with some college friends! Back to the blog when I return. But here are some pics to prove I have been busy! :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Promise of A New Day

Just to give Paula the props she deserves...

Paul in Real Life

In keeping with my random/awesome pop song title themes, I thought to title this post 'Promise of a New Day' (that's right, the Paula Abdul hit of the early 90's...YOU ARE WELCOME for that reminder ;) But I wanted to stay focused on the Steve Carrell movie reference won out :)

St. Paul has been in full effect these days. The first readings from 2 Corinthians have been typical Paul in that they-are-all-run-on-sentences-and-he-likes-to-say-alot-of-good-things-all-in-one-sentence. And they are often about suffering for the sake of the kingdom, but what's new? That's par for the Pauline course :)

"Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes! He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help those who have all kind of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. Just as we have a share in Christ's many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in his great help. If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure..." 2 Corinth 1: 3-6

This was Monday's first reading, and the priest at Daily Mass at St. John's called us to reflect on it more when we had time on our own. I found this really helpful, and I will get to why in a minute :)

The dark clouds still seem to be looming around DC and so they seem to be in my spiritual life too. Usually by now, DC is warm and sunny, but we've had the rainiest Spring ever. And so, too, I can't seem to shake the little clouds that have been clouding my brain and heart.

I did have some relief, though, when I traveled to Cincinnati this past weekend for work. I honestly wasn't looking forward to it, but I decided, though, to offer it up to God, because as I mentioned last week, I've finally started to accept this is what He wants, and there is nothing I can do about it! And it turned out to be a rather blessed weekend. It's amazing what God can do when we surrender! There was lots of down time for prayer, and the weather was beautiful! SUNNY. There was WARMTH and LIGHT!

I was there for this training to speak in the Archdiocese [of Cincinnati], and there were lots of sisters and priests there doing the same. There was (of course!) a cute nun in particular-who actually taught at my old elementary school in Ohio- and she still wore her little habit, though her colleagues seemed to opt not to anymore.

I would find her throughout the weekend walking while praying her rosary, or sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Moments like this make me miss the convent. I tell myself, "I like walking with the rosary! I like sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament...why did I leave again?".

And the time I did spend walking and praying this past weekend, did feel like 'old times' with Jesus. I haven't felt as close to Him here in DC since I've returned- there's so much going on all the time. So many distractions. But isn't that how it is on retreats, I suppose? It is much easier to hear and feel Him on retreat...and I had to remind myself in these moments that the convent was NOT just one big retreat! There certainly were more times for prayer, but even there I didn't always feel the 'retreat high' that I was feeling this weekend.

But back to Paul and the rain- I joked today with God if He wanted me to build an ark or something for all this rain we've been having this 'Spring' (if you can call it that!). And then it made me think of God's promises to Noah and the long wait that he and his family had to endure in the Old Testament.

Maybe our lives are paralleling Noah more than usual these days. I know lots of us are seeing the rain and beginning to question what God is doing in our lives, in our culture. We are just hanging out waiting, wondering if the dark and clouds are ever going to end. But we have to have that hope for the great rainbow- a promise of a new start, a new day.

I just remembered now in writing this that right before I left the convent, my co-postulants and I had a retreat together and my postulant formator gave each of us an image that came to mind when she thought and prayed for us. For me, it was a rainbow- the mixture of sun and rain, but a symbol of great promise. Hmmmm...I'm going to have to go back and meditate on that again!

The point is, Noah didn't know when (or if) the dove (or the sun!) was ever going to come, but he believed and waited, and did what the Lord said. And to tie Paul back in- I don't feel as close to God as I perhaps did when discerning the convent. I'm beginning to think God gives you all those 'lights' as a grace to make that huge step to enter religious life, and I'm not sure if there is anything quite like it.

But I'm not in darkness- things are just a little cloudy. And perhaps these clouds are to help others and their salvation. I've begun to look at my current state in this way. I trust it's bringing me closer to Jesus too, as Paul says, but since I am not 'feeling' Him, I will focus on how I can bring Him to others- in the here and now- where He wants me. Hanging out in the ark, until I see the rainbow...


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Love the One You're With

This Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song popped in my head in prayer today (I have no idea why, btw, that I am always finding random songs in prayer. Some people receive scripture verses, some mantras. No, no, not me, God likes to give me familiar pop songs. But He knows me well :) And NO JOKE (God also likes to do this too) it was on the radio when I got in my car after prayer! Random? Coincidence? Jesus...

So why I'm singing choruses of 'doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo' in my head?

Ever since Pentecost I believe, as I've mentioned, I'm starting to receive the Fortitude I've prayed for during my novena. God's definitely given me more courage to offset the fear I've had of embracing this current state in life, job, and what that means. I no longer am fearing the present and the possibilities for the future ( Do I like or enjoy the possibilities of the present? That's another blog, but I definitely have plenty of opportunities to 'offer up' and 'grow in holiness' let's just say..)

I was pretty scared, not gonna lie, after last year, to open back up to God! God got a big, 'nope! not leaving an open door for you again!' after the convent. I had been so open about vocation prior, but then last year I just started to tell God: I'm calling the shots now. And I've pretty much been miserable. That's dramatic. I am happy, but my spiritual life has suffered some.

Since Pentecost, I am embracing more, as I said last time, that this is what God has for me. And my spiritual director last night (as he always does- I'm SO grateful God has provided me with a holy spiritual director that seems to 'get' me. That is certainly a gift. Good men are hard to find- as we well know! ;) he affirmed everything I'm feeling and praying for, and gave me some tools (as a good spiritual director does) on how to pray with those feelings.

The thing that's been coming up for me and a lot of my friends lately it seems is: 'why do I have this desire in my heart for __________ (fill in the blank here. In my case, ministry. In some of my friends' cases, to be a mom, a wife) for a good holy, thing, but am not receiving it? What am I supposed to do with this desire?'

And he (my SD) re-iterated the steps of discernment. First of all:

is the desire a good one?

is it within your state in life? (That is, if you desire to be a mom and you are married, for example. If you have that desire and are consecrated religious, you'd have to break that open more... ;)

and then, what attracts you to this particular call/vocation?

That was one that I've had to struggle with many times, especially in entering religious life. The community wants to know before you enter, what is your motivation? Do you just want a free place to live? Not have to think about your wardrobe? get my point.

For me I believe God has placed in my heart a desire to minister, particularly to young people- teens and young adults. And as many of you know, an opportunity hasn't really presented itself directly as of late. So my spiritual director asked me to pick apart what attracts me to that particular ministry/call, and then, how can I live those particulars in the here and now, in the state that He's currently called me to?

I've already offered that little exercise or words of wisdom to a couple of people since yesterday. God has shown me there are many people who are struggling with the same thing. Maybe not for a ministry position, but to have a desire to be fulfilled (for don't we all have unfulfilled desires? We are all longing for God and heaven- even if we don't know it!)and I was happy to be able to share that new tidbit of wisdom with them. Hmmm....even 'minister' to them, perhaps ;)

And so as for the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song...'If you can't be with the 'one' you love- whether it be a future spouse, future child, future job- love the one
you are with. Embrace the moment. Find the good. Easier said than done, I know. But it's helped me today :)


Monday, June 1, 2009

Pick your poison- the bottle or St. Paul. Both or pretty potent. Okay, so they really don't compare at all. But I kind of like both. So there.

Gotta Have...

"No amount of coffee, no amount of crying,
No amount of whiskey, no amount of wine
No, nothing else will do
I've gotta have you, I've gotta have you". - 'Gotta Have You' by The Weepies

(Disclaimer- I know some of you probably already disagree with this post because I know you loves your whiskey. And wine. As do I. These are GREAT temporary fixes and I fully support them. Just saying. :)

At the beginning of 2009, my roommates and I proclaimed this year to be the 'Year of Positive Realism'. Each year in the past that the two had lived together, they also proclaimed a theme for the year, so in following their tradition, I helped them come to this theme. This is a theme that we then try to achieve and apply to our lives this year. I think it's a good one. I think I probably already blogged about it at some point.

But shoot! It's JUNE already! Can it be 2009 is already at the half-way point?! And if I am taking stock, I don't know if I can say I've been living up to the year of positive realism very well, basically, because as I've said before- I'm not usually very positive :)

But you probably want to know why I started this blog post with the lyrics of 'Gotta Have You' by The Weepies. One of my roommates, for Valentine's Day, made us mix cds keeping with the 'Positive Realism' theme. This song was on it, and I find myself today singing it to Jesus.

In the song, the lead singer is singing to, presumably, her significant other about a fight they'd had or just their strenuous relationship on the whole. I feel I've certainly been picking lots of fights with Jesus this year myself. But in the end, I come back to those words- 'nothing else will do, I've gotta have You'.

Okay- totally switching gears now- I enjoy manual labor every once in while. A lot of what I do now, and what I did in youth ministry is very creative, a lot of writing and brainstorming- very in my head. Sometimes it's just nice to do no thinking and just something physical, like stuffing an envelope.

Usually when I do a manual task, I end up reflecting and thinking anyways, but then the thoughts seem more free and welcome because they are not necessary or contrived- does that make sense?

Anyways, so I'm stamping and stuffing envelopes today and the themes of surrender, and call, and positive realism- all these themes I've gone over and over again in my head and my prayer- finally seems to take effect as I'm staring at the envelopes and mailing labels. And I think and admit to myself:

"I couldn't have planned any of this. I couldn't have planned any of this. I have to trust this is where God wants me. I have to trust this is where God wants me..."

It's like one of those scenes from a movie where the main character finally realizes something. I think of Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan's character figures out the math problem at the end of the movie to save the day: ('The limit does not exist! The limit does not exist!') Or maybe when Carrie from Sex in the City tries to get Aidan to finally admit he is still holding a grudge against her, 'You have to forgive me. You have to forgive me!' Anyways, I'm staring at this envelope pretty much doing the same thing.

And for the first time in I think all year- I ACCEPTED. Isn't that the first step in like 12 steps or something? Shoot...took me long enough...

THIS IS where God wants me. Here. Stuffing envelopes for this organization. In DC. Going to Daily Mass. Hanging out with friends. This is my call for now.

You guys are like, 'wow, Julia'... Pretty sure you've been blogging about this all year'. And it's true, I knew it. I knew this is where I was called for now, but I kept trying to change it or fight it. Today, I think I finally accepted it. Small victory!

I said last week that I was praying for the Gift of Fortitude this Pentecost . I believe that I have received it, and that is what is helping me finally accept what God has and is showing me this year. And I've seen once again that all my fighting won't do- I've gotta have You.

And a quote from St. Paul that a facebook friend had posted today also gave me inspiration:

"...hope is not hope if it's object is seen; how is it possible for one to hope for what he sees? And hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance." Rom. 8:24-5

Well said, St. Paul! That kind of makes waiting seem like a good thing! Positive Realism, indeed!