Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Babies n 'Bows

My friend and another friend's baby at a get-together and the Christmas Rainbow!

An Attitude of Gratitude

Last year for Christmas my roomie got me an Ann Taintor(if you don't know, you bettah ask somebody...or click on the link) tag for my suitcase that says, 'An Attitude is a Terrible Thing to Waste'. Insinuating MY attitude that is generally one of sass (which it is and usually serves me well, particularly in cases of this blog).

I've been told before in the sin bin to work on my attitude (and not just my one of sass) but to develop an attitude of GRATITUDE. We all let bitterness and- dare I even say- the sin of ENVY get to us. And I know, for a post-Christmas post, ENVY isn't exactly the topic one would choose. But I think this sin certainly happens at Christmas, whether it be eyeing that Wii or EnV3 phone that someone else got (just saying) or comparing ourselves to family members or other families who might have what we want, blah, blah, blah. The devil GETS US at Christmas. He KNOWS its the greatest season of love and he HATES it.

So every once in a while, when that sin of envy creeps in...we have the virtue to combat it, which is GRATITUDE.

This Christmas I found myself in the sin bin because- as predicted- suddenly it was Christmas and I hadn't reflected on the greatness of the GIFT of SALVATION and LOVE that IS Christ Himself at Christmas. Sigh. I also found myself envying others who had changes happening in 2009 or already 2010. Friends getting married, having babies...the usual ;)

I had just prayed this novena to have PEACE and decided on the theme of HOPE for the new year and already the devil is trying to deflate my peace and confidence in the Lord. BOO!

God did give my family and I a sign of His Promise, though, on Christmas Day! Not just through His Son, but as my parents and I were driving to my aunt's with my Grandma, it was sunny but raining slightly. Of course, we were looking for a rainbow, and we found one! A FULL one! I definitely took this as a sign of hope and God telling us everything is gonna be alright. He's taking care of His promises.

And so, I write this blog, to reflect on the things I am GRATEFUL for in 09 to have HOPE for '10!

- I am grateful for my friends and family that I have gotten closer with this year. Particularly my new bro-in-law and friends who like to tweet and blog :)

- I am sooo grateful for the opportunity to go to grad school! And for my grad program.

- I am thankful to have a job.

- I am thankful to have the peace in prayer that I was perhaps lacking earlier this year, late last year.

- I am grateful to go on RETREAT in just under TWO WEEKS with my friends!! WHOO HOO!

- I am grateful for spiritual direction. HOLLER!

- I am grateful for health and health of my family members.

- I AM grateful for the Love Christ gives at Christmas and the HOPE of the NEW YEAR!

I could go on and on, but I wont :) I hope you all are able to reflect on the gifts you received this Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy NEW YEAR! 2010 is a year of HOPE! ;) Get it!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas on Conover Drive 09

Pics from our crazy Blizzard of 09, A Merry Anthropologie Christmas with the Roommates (and our hats that Susan bought us!) and roomies and I at our "Christmas Party" that got snowed in.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Waiting in Hope

Well, I had hoped that the blizzard of 2009 would've passed us over this weekend. I know, I know- I'm SUCH a Grinch to not want snow- especially around Christmas. The Clevelander in me has just seen one too many snowstorms in her day and the commodity of 'playing in the snow' wore off somewhere around high school. Also, the pessismist in me sees the disadvantages of snow, like having to shovel, or being kept from places or events you had planned- LIKE OUR CHRISTMAS PARTY!

How DARE there be a white-out scheduled for the DAY of our annual Christmas party?!?

I was scoffing at the chaos of DC on Friday when there had been the call for 20 inches of snow over the weekend. I said I'd believe it when I actually saw it. DC tends to freak out over snow, and when I went into Whole Foods Friday night to get some last minute items for our party, it was like Y2K all over again. I asked the cashier:
"Is it like this every Friday?"

"No, it's the snow." she replied.

"But there isn't even any snow yet!" I exclaimed.

I was hoping that the predictions would be wrong because I had been so looking forward to hosting our big party. My roomies and I go all out. With my networking skills, Susan's flair for holiday decor, and Steph's culinary delights, we make pretty good hostesses. Not going to lie. And the snow was putting a damper on our plans!!

Such a metaphor for our spiritual lives, right? We plan and plan but we cannot compete with elements like nature that our beyond our control. So we have to surrender. There comes a point where worrying or planning just isn't going to help.

Though I was disappointed, and HOPING that the snow would STOP (I mean, seriously, it did not stop until 1am last night- about the time our guests would've been leaving- oh, the irony. sigh) I surrendered that there had to be something else God wanted for us this night. Maybe to just enjoy a more intimate setting with a few friends and to be thankful...or maybe to enjoy all the rum and goodies we had prepared ourselves! Don't mind if I do!

We ended up having a couple brave friends- 4 in fact. 3 within walking distance and 1 who braved it with her car (she ALMOST made it to us, but did have to call us to help her dig it out at one point). And though it wasn't quite the same as if all 100 of the people I invited on Facebook would've shown up, I feel like the same goals were accomplished: we sang, we danced, we ate and drank, we played, we laughed...definitely a successful evening.

But it just kind of went along with what my year has been like. I keep wanting BIG things to happen. A BIG event. And God keeps showing me the ordinary. I had been hoping for a big party, but last night was really no different than many laid back nights with friends. But maybe God is showing me, 'what's wrong with that???'

Today at Mass (we walked to Mass- there was no getting our cars out. We were pleasantly surprised at how many people turned out! It was almost a typical crowd!) Father talked about how- to people in Mary's day- she and Joseph probably seemed insignificant. Bethlehem means 'town of bread' or something (BTW- how COOL is that! Our Bread of Life came from the Town of Bread! You can't MAKE that up!) and was really only known because King David has also been born there. Mary was just a girl to most, Joseph just a carpenter...they seemed insignifcant but were asked to play such a part in changing HUMANITY.

As we walked to Mass, we saw many of our neighbors digging out their cars, helping one another. Whenever a person would get stuck, whomever else was also out would run to help push the car. The girls and I started singing Christmas carols while we walked, doing what we could to contribute to the Christmas community we had going on. And it just seemed like all was RIGHT in the world. People helping one another, coming outside of our houses...not rushing off past one another to wherever the next place we need to be is. It made me think, this is what community is supposed to be, and it gives me HOPE that we can still do this as humans.

Also, the peace and QUIET of the snow is such a gift. I was disappointed that we couldn't have the loud, crazy party I may have pictured, but the limitations the snow puts on traffic lends itself to a natural peace and quiet.

I was expecting the last week of Advent to be BIG, but it seems God is showing me it may be small, insignificant, but that there is beauty to that. Because His Will is still in that. Though His Incarnation at Christmas was far from insignificant, the scene, the setting was. It was NOT a big, loud party to welcome Him in. But a quiet, still night with just a few select characters to witness. Kind of like what my friends and I shared. And it was beautiful. And in it- HOPE.

And so we wait in HOPE this last week before Christmas. Whether the Lord ushers Himself in with a loud party for you or just a small stillness, May you experience the blessing of His Incarnation at Christmas.


To any of you new readers who may have found me through Todd's posts on Sainthood Project, welcome! Feel free to leave comments! I use my blog to reflect and update friends and family on my life, but feel free to use this place to reflect too! I'd love your feedback! God bless!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Still Waiting...

Okay, so there's totally truth to the me blogging when I should be studying thing. I have my last final today and then my semester is done! I feel ready, but a co-worker and I were reminiscing about the good old days when test taking was drawing a line from one definition to another or True and False questions. I'm actually much better at writing, but there's something daunting about having to write all there's in to know about one subject as your TEST. Well, here goes nothing!

As I was taking a break from studying, I took a little walk to clear my head. There is a path behind the Dominican House of Studies that co-workers and I often walk to get some exercise and get out of the office. This is usually my place where Jesus and I have 'The Talks'. They usually go like this:

"So, I'm still here, Jesus! Still waiting! Still walking! ANY DAY NOW, Jesus!"

And then I get nothing, which isn't surprising because who wants to respond to whiny non-sense like that.

Unless I calm myself and surrender, then He gives me a little something to work with. And it can't be a surrender like in a shake my fists or throw my hands up kind of way. But like, lay my hands down way. Oooo...that's good.

I kind of sorta did that today. And I kind of sorta got an answer.

My friends have been SO GREAT with humoring me in this 'waiting' process, btw. I get tired of speaking about it, so I'm sure they get tired of hearing about it! But they are so patient with me. Just today, a friend reminded me via facebook- "I'm sure God has something great planned for you!"

And I wrote him back as I usually do: "Thanks, I know. If only God would clue me in soon!" But I really did appreciate the sentiment. And I am starting to approach this time a little differently, more positively, lately.

The other day, I was praying with Scripture and I found a letter stuck in my Bible I had printed out. It was from a sister I had sought out when I was discerning leaving the convent. I didn't have printed what I originally wrote her, but I'm sure I was addressing my concerns about the sitting around alot and not feeling like I was actually DOING any mission. I wanted to be used for mission! And God was asking me to wait! This was not what I signed up for!

She asked me if I could handle being "hidden" like Christ was before His ministry. This has been a theme for a lot of my friends, it seems, in our late 20's early 30's. We are ready for that next step, but this seems to be a "hidden" phase.

Funny how I left and I'm still in this phase of my walk with Jesus. Shows He'll get you one way or another! It was the right thing, no doubt, I feel much free-er even in my 'waiting' now than I did there. This is clearly what God wants for me, but it still includes the waiting piece.

We can't understand this in our culture since we are so uber-productive as a society. As I was pacing the path behind our office, one of the Dominicans was walking in front of me. SUPER. SLOWLY. It made me think how peaceful it is just to walk with Jesus, not to have to rush through to get to the next destination. Somehow I can't apply this to my own life, though (I quickly made a hard right to get off of the path- I couldn't bring myself to pass him ;)

If only we looked at the beauty of the in between more often. We are clearly in good company. As I mentioned, Jesus was hidden until age 30-33. We don't know much about His 'formative' years. We don't know much about Mary or Joseph either. They certainly had many formative actions with Jesus before the high drama of His ministry hit. We are all about the drama, the spotlight- myself included.

I think it's hard to take joy in the in-betweens because we DON'T hear much about it. We don't know what is happening in this time, we just see the aftermath. But again, that puts us in good company. When I'm walking around the path yelling to Jesus: "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW!" We don't know much about what He was doing at this time in His life either. It's a big secret. And so it is with us, apparently. I guess this is another (er, cool?) way of Him uniting ourselves to Him.

This time of Advent is a good time to just focus on the journey, since we are all- as I've mentioned before- just waiting for Heaven. I know I'll be trying to focus on the company I'm keeping. Thanks for being on the journey with me!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gaudete Sunday

It has been called to my attention that when I say I'm working on grad papers, I actually end up blogging. There may be some truth to this. Today, however, I fully intended on paper-ing it up all day today but a little birdie/angel/christinemarienajarian reminded me of my commitment (indirectly reminded. She really just called me out for my usual Captain Distraction shenanigans) to blog every Sunday of Advent.

And I'm glad she did! Because I totally would've past over a.) my Advent resolution and b.) this beautiful day of REJOICING. Because let's be honest, nothing about writing a final paper really leads me to rejoice except when it's finished.

Let me back track to yesterday which was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was reminded in a very real way yesterday of this patroness' power when a former youth group member of mine asked me to pray for someone contemplating abortion. I don't want to turn this blog into a political anything, I just want to reflect on Mary and her 'yes' that without which, this season of Advent wouldn't be celebrated. I just can't even imagine where we would all be. I also can't imagine what this girl must be going through. The Bible tells us Mary was scared. There are things that God- or more often our sin- throws our way that freak us out. There are things that come about in our lives that are unfair. But if we remain closed, we only end up causing hurt to ourselves in the long run. I have learned this on many occasions! So I really pray for that girl just because of what she may go through somewhere down the road. We can ALL learn from Mary's openness to God's Will. So I really was called to unite my prayers in a special way to Mary and what Our Lady stands for yesterday. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

So what are we rejoicing for on Gaudete Sunday anyways? What does that even mean, Gaudete? And why is the color pink? Why is it celebrated the Third Week, not the one right before Christmas??

Honestly, friends, I'm in grad school and I'm doing enough research myself right now... If you would like me to elaborate on Reverend Peter C. Yorke and the catechetical method he developed in the early 1900s, I would be happy to elaborate. These are questions, however, you may have to answer yourselves :)

I will tell you that Gaudete means 'rejoice' and Wikipedia (not a source I use for grad papers! or well, at least that I include in a bibliography...) and that the readings for this Sunday are happy rather than the somber, penitential ones the previous two weeks.

I love the first reading from Zephaniah. It really is a message of Hope. This past week, the organization I work for ran an Advent reflection for people at a parish and the theme was about "Awaiting God's Kingdom in a Broken World". It is easy for us to get discouraged and forget about the hope that Christ promises. If nothing else, this Sunday really is about remembering Christ's fulfillment of God's promise to us for eternal life. A life beyond this that we can't imagine, but I'm pretty sure won't entail grad papers... :)

Another reason for me to rejoice this weekend: I MADE SOMETHING EDIBLE to contribute to a cookie exchange some of my friends were hosting. I was intimidated and nervous about the whole venture because as Sr. Agnes once told me, "You don't cook. You re-heat". Touche, Sr. Agnes. But my friend Kaitrin gave me a recipe that didn't entail BAKING or COOKING. I KNOW.

Without giving away any of my SECRETS, you can probably infer that nothing about this process was organic or healthy, but rather all ingredients were highly processed already and simply necessitated me gathering materials together in a bowl. Regardless if they were 6,000+ calories a piece, or whether we will be finding marks of chocolate on our walls for months to come- this is an achievement for me, and the whole event was a success. I have documented proof:

Yes, they may look like reindeer poop. No one said they had to be aesthetically pleasing. I'll work on that for next year. Plus, there was Rock Band at this cookie exchange- probably the only way my friends knew they could get me to attend since I was so freaked out by the cooking- so all were distracted and paid no attention (or at least did not comment on) the fact I won't be getting a culinary award any time soon. Rejoice!

Until the next candle...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Hail, Favored One!

Little known fact: when I was in postulancy, my co-postulants and I had an inside joke about this feast that we celebrate today. Who has inside jokes about The Immaculate Conception?? I DO. Yes, this is my life.

We were taking this class and for some reason, the doctrine on the Immaculate Conception- which we celebrate today- was always a point of contention for one of our classmates. They wanted all the details. (rightfully, so!) And the joke became that we would talk about the date when this doctrine was defined. EVERY. CLASS.

Our poor, dear classmate: "What date was the Immaculate Conception instated again?"

Me and my postulants (okay mostly me): eye rolling (1854, I believe, and I only know because we mentioned it. EVERY. CLASS.)

(disclamier: for those of you who aren't too familiar with the details on the Immaculate Conception, I'm not going to elaborate too much here, but if you have questions, about this doctrine, please do not hesitate to ask me!!!! BRIEF synopsis: MARY- not Jesus as commonly misunderstood- is the Immaculate Conception, which means she is born without original sin. She called herself by this title- 'I am the Immaculate Conception'-to St. Bernadette at Lourdes in the 1800's)

It's not that I don't mind educating people about the Immaculate Conception. There clearly is a need for it! That is understood. It was the repitition of the questioning. Also, hopefully, understood.

We also discussed often in a different class- interestingly enough- about the language used in the passage of Scripture which we base this doctrine on (Gabriel coming to Mary to announce she would be the Mother of God, FYI): 'Hail favored one' in some translations. "Hail, HIGHLY favored one', in others. I think one was like, 'Greatest Salutations!" Just kidding...kind of.(ps-Some translations of the Bible are AWFUL!)

The point is, in the Greek, there is more depth to this greeting. It is in this scene with Gabriel and Mary that we interpret Mary's purity from sin; her being full of GRACE. The translations we use sometimes don't do her significance and this scene justice.

But reading "Hail favored one" in my translation, I thought today:

Doesn't Jesus favor me as well? Each one of us, in fact?

(this is where the power of the Greek translation comes in. Clearly, I AM NOT LIKE MARY. Let me just make that clear!)

But, I'm just saying: doesn't He call out to each one of us in a special way? Clearly Mary has her role in the Church and in history and she is the Immaculate Conception! But Jesus calls out to each one of us and gives our own unique calls and roles as well- in all of our sinfulness.

I've always loved that Mary is troubled by this greeting. Again, not troubled like the way we might think. I'm thinking she was probably just generally freaked out by an angel appearing in her room, not necessarily by the message, because clearly, she accepted the message with her 'Yes'.

We tend to be more freaked out by what God may be asking us to do, hence, our sinfulness compared to Mary's perfect acceptance and surrender to God's Will. He says, 'Hail favored one' to us, in a very different way (in fact, in a 'you are still born with original sin' kind of way!) But there is still something God is asking us to do, each moment, each day- something we need to say 'Yes' to. And this is why we use Mary as our help and our model so that she can help us make our 'yes' to Jesus.

I think Mary can also be our model- particulalry us women- in having a little more confidence in ourselves, gosh darn it! What I envy most about Mary (can I say that??? I just did) is her CONFIDENCE. Our culture TEARS. US. DOWN. Ladies, but God wants to build us up! We are FAVORED in His eyes! We have a CALL. Mary knew that in her inmost being with perfect trust (that's part of what's makes her more perfect than us ;) May she help us have that confidence in the Lord.

Amen?? Amen!

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! :)


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Okay is (not) Alright with Me

Sooo...I went to my spiritual director yesterday and got a nice little kick in the pants. This is how it is people: when you think you are doing okay, this is usually a sign that you are NOT :) Complacency or being 'comfortable' is never totally okay in the spiritual life, sad but true. It is when we are uncomfortable that we 'get to grow'. Bah. So just consider the spiritual life a constant kick in the pants. Great.

So I walk in there and tell him, 'I'm great! Things are great. Finished the novena. It was great. I think I'm doing just great.'

Then he was like, 'Great! Now, what are you doing about Advent?'

Advent ALWAYS sneaks up on me- didn't I tell you? I worry about preparing for it, and then a week goes by and suddenly I'm in Ohio sitting at my Babci's eating pierogies ( YOU KNOW they are GOOD. Real deal, folks) and have totally forgotten I even planned an Advent resolution. Oh, well- better luck next year!

See, my intentions are always good. I told Father, 'Well, I've been prayiing about what to do for Advent. I WANT to do something" But apparently, good intentions are not the same as DOING SOMETHING. He was like, 'Well, um, but...it's already the 2nd Sunday of Advent". Point taken.

So he gave me homework. I have to come up with a resolution by today people. TODAY. I think I am going to commit to blogging on each Sunday of Advent, because this has been a significant way for me to meditate and share. He also suggested using images and art in my prayer to help jump start because, let's face it- this grad student gets plenty of WORDS lately.

And then he brought up the whole cheezy gift thing ( Which he also acknowledged the image may be trite and cheezy, which I appreciated ;) that Christmas IS Jesus' birthday after all (or that day on which we choose to recognize it ;)and so we GIVE PEOPLE STUFF on their birthdays. WHAT AM I GOING TO GIVE JESUS for CHRISTMAS?

AHHHHHHHHH....gift giving. Here's the thing. I DO like to give people gifts. Side story- I went to Anthropologie yesterday which I love SO much I even link it to this blog. I KNOW it's over-priced kitchyware and the like, but you KNOW i am a girl of DISCERNMENT, people. It's like with media intake- you have to be DISCERNING. DON'T buy the $288 purse. Go straight to the Sale room and don't even fantasize. YOU CAN FIND $40 SWEATERS and then TELL everyone you bought it at Anthrolopologie and they THINK you dropped $180. You are welcome.

Anyways, that was a huge digression. All to say, I went. I bought. And it was not for me! It is going to be a very Merry Anthropologie Christmas for SOME good girls in my life this year! And it made me SOoooo excited to buy the gifts. I wanted to even spend MORE because I just know how much enjoyment my friends, relatives will have. But my credit card bill said NO. Silly credit card. Bah humbug.

But going to Anthropologie's Sale Room for my friends is easy. No brainer. I know they will love such things. But what about those gifts for people who are hard to shop for. Like my DAD. He never wants anything, but deserves the world. I just feel like nothing would be perfect enough, good enough and maybe those are my ISSUES. But do know what I'm saying?

Shopping for the perfect gift is STRESSFUL.

So what the heck am I going to GIVE JESUS. He is well...JESUS. This makes Him simultaneously the most difficult and easiest man to 'shop' for. Most difficult because I feel nothing could be perfect enough, good enough, but easiest because He usually accepts anything and doesn't ever even make that face that I make EVERY CHRISTMAS when I get something and internally think, 'really? This fuzzy jumpsuit made you think of ME? Really?' HE DOESN'T DO THAT.

So I guess I should stop stressing out about what to give Him and just DO SOMETHING already. Other than just make metaphors for shopping for Jesus. 'Cause really I could do that forever:

With Jesus, sales are never final (Hey-oh!)

With Jesus, one-size fits all (bud-dump, ching!)

Alright, I'll stop there. But feel free to comment with your a.) Advent resolutions b.) shopping for Jesus metaphors c.) any comments, thoughts, and concerns as per usual :)

Ps- the title of this blogpost is inspired by an Eric Hutchinson song. Just an FYI. If you don't know him, you should.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ready to Wait?!

Happy First Sunday of Advent! I must admit, the little dork inside of me got a little bit giddy with Father started his homily today recognizing that this is the first day of our new year. I LOVE NEW YEARS'. I know it's usually all hype with a lot of letdown when we drop lots of cash just to see a ball drop; we have expectations of what the new year will bring and who we will spend it with (and who we will kiss at midnight) and then January 1st comes and it's like any other day.

I think I have the same expectations for Advent. I worry about what I'm going to do to 'prepare' and then I spend so much time worrying and upset that I'm not doing what I need to prepare, that I don't enjoy the present. It hit me today that Advent is about the Present. Yes, we wait for what the future will bring, but we can't get wrapped up too much in the past or future. It's what we do in the present.

The Gospel today warns us to be ready: "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36) And this can either freak us out about the future, get us all self-loathing about the past OR we can be ready EACH DAY and live EACH DAY well in the present.

My 81 day novena is FINISHED! And as I noted a couple posts ago, funny how God works- Advent is beginning just after it ended! So more waiting. But I found with the novena there was much benefit in the waiting- the praying of the prayer each day and making the most of it- not worrying about what the outcome will be. And so I am approaching Advent in the spirit of that novena. Waiting for the outcome of the novena with the Lord and Mary and the rest of the world, but also grateful for what God is doing in the present, regardless of the outcome.

I did not pray the novena perfectly, but I cannot worry about the past. I don't know what the results of it will be, but I cannot worry about the future. I will wait now with the rest of the Church in Advent- and it's kind of awesome that God planned it all this way without our realizing it!

You KNOW I am not 'that girl' all about the cheezy catch phrases, but I'm realizing there is something to be said about that 'gift' of the 'present' (and yeah, I know that clever word play doesn't really necessarily translate with other languages, but whatevs). Yesterday was a beautiful day where past and present got to meet- a bunch of my college friends and I met up in Camp Hill, PA to support our friend Dan who is battling leukemia. It was truly a gift of the present. We couldn't hold onto the past, and we can only hope for the future. But we really got to live that gift of the present with our friend and all the hope that was present that day (You can check out more about Dan and how to support him and his family during this time here

One of my best friends asked me yesterday how I was doing with job, vocation, etc. It always sounds when I'm explaining to people that I still have not gotten the job or vocation that I want or expect that I am complaining or sad. I couldn't stress to her enough that while I wasn't in my ideal job, I was getting affirmation and love about the present from Jesus and I knew it is where God wants me. This Advent I am praying that I can express the JOY of waiting. The JOY that can be in this present, even if it isn't what we expect or want. The JOY that comes with receiving and giving gifts.

For isn't that what the spirit of Christmas is really all about? Just call me Tiny Tim ;)

Happy Advent, everyone! Let's wait in JOY together as we struggle to live the present with HOPE.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christine and I at the airport waiting to get to Kansas City for NCYC, my new buddy Joe and I at the conference, and 20,000 teens at the Sprint Center- just some of the highlights of my weekend!

Lean On Me

So I am currently waiting with my girl @ChristineMarieN after a beautiful weekend at #ncyc (yes I speak in Twitter all the time now) waiting to fly back to DC for another mere 24 hour stay. This has become a pattern for me this fall: fly out for work trip, come back for a day, fly out again. And while it is certainly not ideal, it is just the way things have to be right now, and I am grateful that at least all the trips have worked out smoothly.

This, I am realizing, is also a metaphor for what my spiritual life has been as well. Perhaps not ideally where I'd like to be at vocationally, ministerially, but I've accepted it's the way it has to be right now and I am grateful that at least everything is going smoothly.

It is the last week of our 81 day novena and it is my week to be 'on' for the rest of us. St. Catherine of Alexandria is my girl this week- my partner in prayer- and it seems this woman was hard. core. (are we surprised?) She strikes me as a tough cookie, which I am grateful for. I'm guessing she was probably a sassy sister as well :) She is known for her martyrdom in the 4th century and there are lots of legends surrounding her. They attempted to martyr her by a spiked wheel (whatever that is. It doesn't sound good. And it doesn't sound like the wheel in my life, which would be Wheel of Fortune. #imawheelwatcher. Also, as my friend Christine cleverly pointed out, I like spiked heels. Not spiked wheels) and when that didnt work, they beheaded her. Hmmmm...

Now this is novena is supposed to be a prayer for my vocation, so I'm trying to see how this all matches up. This weekend at NCYC I had many conversations with many people- often about my vocation/state in life- as many of my worlds from NET, Youth Ministry, and the convent collided. And the message kept coming to me through many of these conversations: we are only called to this present moment. And to be saints. Which in relating this with martyrdom- what is my goal? Is my goal just to get married? Or is it to be a saint?

Of course, we don't have to be martyred to be saints, and I'm not saying that's what God is calling me to. I think He is just switching my focus back to Him, and affirming that is my sole call.

I was at the conference to promote the organization I work for, but as I said, there were so many people I was running into from my past or making future connections with, that I often left the table (shhh...don't tell! ;). And I came back to the table one day to find a slip of paper with Hebrews 12:1 on it left on my table- the verse of this very blog! The verse that's been my verse for many years now.

Since I did have many people there who are close to me, I figured one of them had left it there. But I asked, and they each said they hadn't. I'm not quite sure what to make of it! And I received another small sign from God this weekend as well, through a new acquaintance I was talking with about evangelizing through media and this whole call to sainthood stuff. He was giving away lots of free materials, but he gave me this random keychain with sunflowers on it, which- I didn't realize until after I pondered the Bible verse- have always been one of my images or 'signs' with God. Sunflowers have been signs of light that God gave me before I took my first youth ministry job and at many times in my life when I needed His presence. God is doing something, if nothing else, just reminding me He is there in this moment. And I am grateful!!!

I am very grateful for the many conversations I had this weekend with new friends, old friends, and for God's presence this weekend. He is going to be faithful to the prayers of this novena in ways I'm sure I wasn't even expecting. He has always been faithful to me and He is reminding me.

I got to spend some beautiful moments with the very special Angrisano family this weekend as well. Something Steve was saying to the teens at NCYC this weekend was that he wouldn't take back the trying moments or the painful moments of his life and he shared stories of other people's trials as well. Because it is true that the valleys in our lives do lead us to other mountains. This weekend seemed to be a culmination for me of many mountains I've come up and down, and I've certainly been in a valley this year. But God is giving me hope and signs that there is a new mountain, but I need to stay focused on Him in the present to get to it.

And as for the subject of this blogpost? Um, it was an NCYC conference and Steve was emceeing it... the song may have been sung a time or two. Or four (five!) It won't be long...(short!)

Ah...youth ministry.

The best was when Christine and I took a break from the conference to get lunch at Quizznos and this song was actually playing as we waited in line. Teens were in front and behind us chanting the appropriate ad-lib words and Christine and I could not help but find ourselves doing the same.

Once a youth minister, always a youth minister, right? We'll see what God has in store...


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clueless for Christ or 'That Was Way Harsh, Tai'

I remember FREAKING. OUT. when my sister said she'd TAPED OVER my copy of this movie back in high school. Thank God I now own it on DVD.

So this movie was like way totally awesome and I can still recite every line. I was thinking about it today after a series of events, which pretty much is a series of events that have been repeated more than once this year: girl applies for job, girl gets interview for job, girl gets told she would be perfect for job, girl doesn't get job.

WHAT?! Right. And friends try to console you as friends do, telling you God has another, better plan for you. But it's like Tai says in Clueless when Elton rejects her and Cher and Dionne try and console her saying, "You're too good for him, Tai".

Tai's response? "Well, if I'm too good for him, how come I'm not WITH him".

Touche, Tai. Touche.

That's how it's been in many arenas for me I feel this year, and I know I'm not alone. We console ourselves telling ourselves there is a better plan and a reason, and I do believe it. There just also comes a point where I ask myself, "okay, am I being delusional here? Am I in the complete wrong direction? Am I off base? You gotta help me out here, Lord, 'cause I am Clueless!"

I will say, in experiencing such events repeatedly, it does get a little easier. Or maybe as my friend (trying to console me ;) put it: 'God is doing some kind of work on your heart'. I think both are probably true. Psychologically, humanly, we build up a thick skin. It's important, though, not to let it [the tough skin] become a barrier for letting anything new in, though. That's always a challenge. But what my friend said actually did comfort me. God IS working on my heart. I have already seen the growth, much of which I've noted in this blog. It kind of goes with the COURAGE I was talking about last week. Heart. Courage. It takes courage to keep throwing ourselves back out there after being rejected again and again, but maybe that's what God wants us to do? Maybe?

Another thing I think I mentioned last post is that I'm reading through Matthew and I don't know if it's Matthew or what Jesus is just telling me right now or what, but I keep getting that phrase, "I desire mercy not sacrifice". WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, GOD? I know you don't want me to suffer, but how can I be merciful towards YOU, GOD? How can I show YOU, mercy?

The readings today helped me...just a little. The first reading today from 2 Maccabees was crazy courageous, but very much exemplified the 'Old Testament' view. Eleazar courageously refuses to eat pork and chooses being tortured to defilement in the eyes of the Law. This is very similar to the martyrdom that we still see today- offering up yourself for what one believes in. But as Jesus says in Matthew, He has made things new and it's not just about the Law now, but rather, Him. We can offer ourselves up for Him, but we cannot earn anything. He already has paid the price for us. And he desires this mercy not sacrifice thing and...I'm still confused.

The Gospel today, though, demonstrates the mercy aspect of Jesus' fulfillment of the 'new'. Jesus invites Zaccheaus, a tax collector, to come and follow Him. He offers Zaccheaus mercy. Zaccheaus probably does have to make some sacrifices for this new life- but God just wants him. So this makes me think, is the mercy on our part or Christ's? His mercy is probably gonna cover all of us right?

Have I talked myself into one big circle yet again? I think I am getting somewhere, but there is still very much a mystery element to it. I guess I'll stop forcing God to reveal Himself and let Him do His thing. In the meantime, there is one thing I know...

This summer I had the privelege of attending the Arlington Diocesan Workcamp and singing a little with Steve Angrisano. One of the songs we sang is on his new album and I totally recommend downloading on itunes at least this song:

'Falling Into You'

It's simple and prayerful. Very praise and worship-y. And I like the lyrics 'inescapable love' with 'unshakable confidence'. It's true! I can't escape God's love- though I've tried ;) And I keep coming back with 'unshakable confidence' thanks be to Him!

There is nowhere I go, there is no way place I know that I can run from your love

Knowing my hurt my shame, still you call out my name, so I'm falling into You

I'm falling into Your Inescapable Love with unshakable confidence

I'm falling into your indescribable Grace, Lord take all I am and make me new

'Cause I'm falling into You

Lord Consume Me, Lord Consume ME....

I will be seeing Steve and actually have many of my worlds collide very soon! I'm going to this conference this weekend for work, but I will see many youth ministry people, NET friends, AND the Daughters! I'm a little nervous for many of my worlds to collide, but I'm sure God will be very present. Prayers are appreciated. ALSO I'm coming up on the end of the novena next week!!! We end the day after Thanksgiving. Just in time for Advent....and more waiting.....think God is trying to tell us something??


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Me and Mariah....

This is Mariah actually keeping it somewhat Klassy (with a K, of course). I couldn't even post the first few images that popped up when I googled her. Yikes, girlfriend!

I Had a Vision of Love

Thinking of a title for this blog post made me also think of how badly I want to advocate for bringing back the old school Mariah (Mariah Carey, that is). You know, like 'Fantasy' Mariah: 'me and Mariah- go back like babies and pacifiahs...' (RIP, ODB). What has girlfriend done to herself these days? Just even musically speaking (because God help if I get into physically, emotionally...I'm in no place to judge...)

Bring back 'Someday', 'Emotions' and songs that showcase your voice, my friend!!!

But that is clearly a post for my popblog.

What I'd like to address here, today is of course, God's Love and His Vision for us.

At the prompting of my spiritual director (what would I do without that man??) I have been making more of an effort to read Scripture and challenging myself to read an entire book at a time. I did this, actually, when I was in high school. Read the bible straight through with my trusty Study bible. But a lot certainly has changed since I was, oh, 18 to say the least!

I've also decided to start with the Gospels, which is usually where we tell people to start when they haven't had much a of a prayer life or perhaps are new to prayer. Since I have only recently been feeling consolation, I thought this advice could certainly apply to me as well!

I'm at chapter 9 in Matthew and today was the 'Healing of the Paralytic':

"He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven."
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming."
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" --he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings"
. Matt 9:1-9

I don't know about you, but when Jesus asks, 'Which is easier to say, 'Your sins or forgiven or Rise and walk?' I'm like, um, 'rise and walk!' As you know, I am very direct. If there is a direct, efficient way of doing things, LET'S DO THAT.

But Jesus is not so direct all the time, and He does things so we can better KNOW Him. (To which I say, much like my team did after our NET year, 'Great, Jesus. Others get to have fun, but we get to GROW'. Awesome.) My spiritual director even pointed out to me last time that 'Courage' has the root 'cour' which means having to do with 'heart'. Christ wants us to have heart. He wants us to know His love.

So today it finally struck me: I don't want the easy, direct way when it comes to love. I know we think we do, but how much more meaningful is it when we learn something, even when we are disciplined?

I think about a child who is crying and whining. If you just give the child a cookie to shut him/her up (which I may fall on the otherside of the spectrum- I just let the kid cry), is that really love? Or do you want it to just stop bugging you?

I think this is probably where Jesus and I are at. I'm crying, screaming, 'Gimme! Gimme!' and rather than just give me what I want so I'll go away or stop, He wants us to learn, to fall, to get back up, so that He can FORGIVE me and SHOW me that I am LOVED. Because we all know that when we fall, we come running back to Jesus. It's not that he wants us to fall, but it's like parents- they want their children to grow. Not just become a greedy, instant gratification seeking spoiled brat.

I was also reading Cardinal Van Thuan's Testimony of Hope (STILL. I KNOW. I'm a slow reader!) and he was talking about martyrs and how they do not put LIMITS on the LOVE of God. Our response to God should be limitless. Just as God continues to be patient with us and love us, so should our response be without any stipulation or price.

Anyways, those words were very freeing for me today. That God proves His love for us by NOT always giving us things instantly. He heals us not by instant gratification, but by forgiveness and growth and love. And we too should respond without limits or boundaries.

That's my vision, and I'm sticking to it. I'm keeping it old school Mariah right now, not this 'Obsessed' one-note stuff ;)


Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Always Feel Like, Somebody's Watching Me...

Well, Naj, you called me out. I was talking with said friend over gchat earlier today about saints who at one point lived sinful and scandalous lives (There are quite a few!) and she said, 'sounds like a blog is coming on!' (And, yes, I do use gchat to talk about saints. WHAT. It's ALL SAINTS DAY).

I know I blogged a couple weeks ago about evil spirits and I probably creeped a few of you out. Well, the good news is that today I was feelin the love of the GOOD spirits. Yeah! Not only do they exist, but as I said before, I think, they are looking out for us and they have already WON for us. We just have to turn to ask their aid and follow Christ as they did.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Perhaps.

I really was looking forward to this feast day in kind of a geeky way. Almost as geeky as when I blogged about 17th century catechisms. But see, I've got this novena to like 9 different saints going on that I've been talking about (today we started calling on St. JUDE which at first I was like, 'am I REALLY a lost cause? 'Cause he's the guy for lost causes. Then I went to Catholic Underground last night, which, for those of you who are familiar with attempts at young adult events know that for us single peeps they turn into somewhat of a Christian 'kosher' meat-market and last night was no exception. Yikes.) So I was feeling a little desperate, I suppose, and I welcomed St. Jude with as a breath of fresh air.

There are SO MANY saints. We talk a lot about all the sinners in the world today. In fact, we glorify them. Now I'm all for calling ourselves out a la St. Paul and boasting in weaknesses to an extent, but we often turn to gossip, and that's no. good. That ain't St. Paul kind of boasting.

But the priest at Mass today reminded us that there are lots of saints, canonized or not, who are living holy lives. I would like to count some of us bloggers/readers among them!

When my friend Naj and I were talking about the sinner-saint phenomenon, I began to think outloud or (via gchat, rather) about the sassy saints I identified with. Of course we all know Paul was a tough cookie, I gots a little St. Teresa of Avila wit in there, and I totally identify with Peter's confusion and well, density. Who are the saints you identify with?

The saints are cool for this reason. Well, for many reasons- the whole sacrificing their lives for God thing is crazy-cool- but the fact that we can identify with them and they were human is consoling and cool. The 'communion of saints' thing, the 'cloud of witnesses'... we are not alone, though we may feel desperate. And I've come full circle.

On a completely different note, though we are never alone- we have the saints and our saintly fellow Church-members around us- it must be God alone whom we seek. And He's been reminding me of that lately. I know we all get frustrated when we aren't getting what we want. And clearly that's been the theme of my year. But if all we want is God, we can never be disappointed. OOOOOOoooo...deep, right?? 'Cause He's always there. Win-win.

I'll leave you with this quote from a praise and worship song that I'd almost forgotten about until I was at Adoration tonight (speaking of, how cool is it to think that when we are in Heaven we can have Adoration 24/7! I was reading the first reading of Revelations today and thinking of the saints just endlessly adoring God in Heaven. And the holy souls we honor tomorrow are hopefully there too! All you holy men and women, pray for us!)

God alone! God alone!
In your courts, O my Lord, is my home!
You are my treasure, my portion,
delight of my soul!
My life, my salvation, my fortress,
my God and my all!
O my soul, claim nothing as your own!
For you, there is God,
and God alone!

And how 'bout a little Halloween pic of me and my friend Laura (who co-authors our pop blog) just for fun (I was Rachel Zoe, celebrity stylist for the stars. If you don't know who she is or why I love her, watch this

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When I'm 86...

Pictures of my Babci...read on!

I'm inspired today to blog about my grandmother, aka Babci

Babci just had knee surgery last week. It should be said that Babci is not your typical 86 year old. Babci mowed the lawn by herself 2 days before the knee surgery. Then she wonders why she needs knee surgery.

Babci is off the boat from Poland, and though she's been in the US for 50+ years, she'll tell you her 'English is no good' (it's fine).

So I called Babci today to see how she was feeling after the knee surgery. She was recently moved from the hospital to the rehab facility. Since she does enjoy being self-sufficient, doing things like mowing her own lawn, I was expecting her to find the rehabilitation inhibiting, and thus, putting her in a bad mood. Imagine my surprise when I call and she answers cheerfully!

"Julia!!!" immediately I think, she must still be on some kind of meds.
"Hey, Babci! How are you doing?"
"I'm good!" in my head I think, "really?"
"Are you still on medication?" I ask, trying to solve the puzzle
"Some, but not like before" Huh. I'm still puzzled. I thought the morphine or codine would've been the case.
"Are you ready to leave? Do you like it there" Again, this is me thinking she is miserable and couldn't possibly be happy being cooped up.
"No, it's nice! People are nice" again, I think to myself, "really?"

Now, Babci is a people person and generally just loves attention. So I'm guessing if she has people visiting her and nurses taking care of her, she is probably happy.

"People are nice, huh?" I ask, determined to get to the bottom of this.
"Yes. They say I'm a trooper." Aha! The answer! She IS getting positive attention which she loves. I breathe a sigh of relief. It's not the codine.
"Well, you are a trooper, Babci" I tell her
"And your cousin Lauren called me yesterday" ahh...another form of attention. Well, done, Cousin Lauren.
"Oh yeah? That's nice" I say.
"I told her she better buy some of that good vodka." Now, most of you reading probably just stopped in your tracks. You are probably shocked to hear this from an 86 year old. I, however, am not at all surprised. I just know good blog material is coming...

"Yeah. Not the bad stuff, the good smooth vodka. Like the kind my friend who picks me up for Bingo on Thursdays brought back from Las Vegas" she says.

"Your Bingo friend? you don't say." My cousin lives in Chicago, however, so I ask, "do they have that good vodka in Chicago?"

"They should! They got everything else, the good Polish beer. But this vodka, it's 'The Chopin'" she tells me (everything is prefaced with a THE in my Babci's 'broken' English. That's how she keeps it Polish. For instance, our current president is THE Obama, and that's a WHOLE 'nother story...)

"The Chopin? That's a vodka? I thought it was a composer" I ask
"Right. Like the music you play. Well, I want a shot of Chopin for my recovery when I get home. A hot bowl of soup and a shot".

Well, there you have it. Recipe for healing from Grandma: A Hot Bowl of Soup and a Shot. Most grandmothers do recommend soup, my grandmother just adds alcohol.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My roomies and some of the women in our prayer group celebrating my dear friend and faithful blog reader/writer, Gina!

Okay, so this post is just to say a couple of things. (My mind is currently mush due to two papers due these next two weeks and the buhzillion different things my spiritual director gave me to work on on Sat.) So here are the basics:

a.) HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY(S) GINA and LORI!!! You two are such inspirations to me and my walk with the Lord, and your presence in my life and in our women's group is SUCH a GIFT. Praise God for both of you!!

b.) CHARITY is my word for the next part of this journey. Apparently, praying for PATIENCE is over-rated. My spiritual director practically scoffed at me: 'why would you pray for patience?!'. Apparently that increases suffering or something. Because of patience's latin root 'patio' which is to suffer. Awesome. Now you tell me. So charity is the new patience for me. It's a higher virtue- a theological one, to be exact(and the greatest!, shout out St. Paul!)-and if you think about it, it will produce patience if I am practicing charity. Win-win. Done and done. You can join me in my prayer for more opportunities to LOVE! So much better than suffering. Sheesh. Though the two go hand in hand, I know...but whatevs.

c.) I know I should be spending my time on said papers, but instead...I mean, in addition to...I've started a POPblog with my new BFF in pop culture crime, Laura. Check it out:

It may or may not (most likely not) do anything for your soul, but it may give you a laugh, which therein helps the soul, am I right?!

Alright. Maybe I should write a paper now. Can I get an MA in blogging???


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SMILE! God loves you!!

Caring is Creepy

So I know I joke around alot on this blog and have kind of made it one of my personal missions to bring God 'down to our level'. But see, I don't even need to really do that 'cause He's already there. He 'gets' us. Or let me re-phrase: I attempt to show others in my own weak way that He is tangible, but He is already at our level because, well, He created us and knows us.

That all being said, there are moments that I'm sure we've all had where we realize how BIG God is. And this is not to scare us, but to remind us that, well, He's God after all.

I know that something I've been praying for this year IS to have Him reveal Himself to me in that big way again. And, as usual, He does so in mysterious, unexpected ways.

Fall is in full effect right now with it's color and it's weather- it's time of change. Guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it's now Jesus decides to let His mercy start to 'fall' as well.

It's also almost Halloween and it's always been a holiday I must say I get pretty into. I don't know if it's because I feel very in tune with spiritual things or what, but I am also not naive to the fact that these spirits include- Imma go ahead and say it- evil ones. And they are not to be played. For reals.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, while I may take somethings like this blog rather lightly, I want to say I do not take the spirits lightly. And as weird as that must sound, one of the ways that God has just kind of rained down on me is to remind me that He is God, and while He is victorious over evil, it's still pretty real and we have to be on our guard.

Is that creepy/Halloweenish enough for you? Yeah, I thought so. It's for real! Evil is for real! Yeah, I don't like it either! I'm JUST SAYING!

I don't think I have to go into a history lesson, but Halloween started as a religious thing. A way to scare off evil spirits before All Saints Day which follows. Now, I usually just try to come up with a costume that is current and creative, so my Rachel Zoe get-up isn't scaring ANYBODY, but TRUST that while I may not be off-setting evil with my attire, I will be packing a punch with my prayer! You feel me??

So all I'm saying is, while it's very cool and important to keep it casual with our God, we also need to be on our guard. That's all I'm saying. Sorry if that creeps you out, but 'tis the season, I suppose!

Please join me in the prayer this Halloween/All Saints/All Souls season to really reflect on the spirits and the soul and to cast out anything in this realm that, well, just isn't good. Thanks!!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Proof is in the...Beer

Steph and I with our friend Jeff, Steph on the trampoline, and my roomies grinding that beer!

A Day in the Life

There has been so much going on lately, that I don't even know if God can keep up with me. Okay, that's a lie. The whole Psalm 139, 'He knows when we sit and when we stand' thing is TRUE. (Fortunately, but unfortunately, right??? Sometimes I'm not sure I want Him to know...) But seriously, I've been BUSY. But God knows that for me, busy is GOOD. 'An idle mind is the devil's playground' and all that is the case for me. When I'm not busy, I get LAZY. And when I'm lazy, I just start wallowing. No. Good.

So busy is good! But I also just gotta make sure that I'm making time for the Lord in there, and lucky for me, I've always been able to have a job (no matter how much I like it or not) that allows me flexibility to take time to go to Mass and pray.

Lately, I've been traveling for work, but let me back up just a bit.

Last weekend we (my roomies and I) had a friend from college who I hadn't seen in over half a year come down and stay with us. SO nice. One of the things that has certainly helped me embrace my 'state in life' are the awesome friendships I have been able to maintain from high school, college, and beyond.

The other thing I LOVE about my friends (other than the fact that they are loyal and also in pursuit of HOLINESS!) is that they know how to have a good time!!!

I don't know if I've ever mentioned before that we Jingers- I don't like to brag- but we may have the perfect. party. house.

Exhibit 1: we have beer door. It's a door in our fridge that holds beer. Easy access. Seriously, people have learned just to come in, go straight to the kitchen and grab a beer from the beer door. I love this conditioning that has occurred.

Last weekend was no exception. We were chilling out back (well, we weren't actually physically chilling because it was abnormally warm for a fall day, hence, the sitting outside) and I was impressed by person after person who just let themselves into our house and came outside with a beer. GOOD FORM, my friends!

Exhibit 2: We have a trampoline. Yes, it makes our 13 year old dreams come true too.

Mix beer and a trampoline and you may think it is a recipe for disaster, but we drink RESPONSIBLY, people.

I should've entitled this blog post, 'Ode to Beer', because it seemed that's what last weekend was. But let me also state that it is rare, anymore, that TWO nights of a weekend involve beer consumption for us. But this weekend was an exception. And not only did we consume beer, but we BREWED OUR OWN. EPIC WIN!

I may not enjoy cooking and the like, but grinding hops and watching a pot boil while drinking beer, I can handle.

Okay, so after Beer Gate 09, I had to get to work. Part of my job does require travel, which has been difficult to juggle since I am now in grad school and have additional work and class to attend to (but I'll get to that later).

This week it was off to Ohio, which most of you know, is where my family resides. So I got to hang out with John and Jeannette (aka the 'rents) a little.

I think I may have mentioned before that my parents tend to be cooler than my sister and I, and they actually have spent their recent retirement studying to become docents at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My friend Ryan and I had some down time in between the Cleveland trip and our trip to Dayton, so my mom hooked us up with some free tickets to the Hall. Thanks, Mom!

I'd been to the Rock Hall before, but I always get a little...I don't know, is vaclempt the word? err..the spelling?...when I see lyrics for the title of this blogpost, hand-written by John Lennon, Christmas cards made by Jim Morrison for his parents, and teenage artwork done by Jimi Hendrix. There's just something unifyingly beautiful to know that our rockstars are human, and eerily convicting of what can happen when life is taken too soon, talent is taken too soon.

And it's just such a celebration of music which I love! I highly recommend anyone who is a pop culture, music fan to make a trip to the land of Cleve and some point. You can stay with John and Jeannette. They'll show you a good time ;)

I feel like I should also give a novena/prayer update. I mentioned it has been easier for me to accept my state in life lately, but its still not easy and I do struggle with God's Will from time to time. But I think as I've also mentioned before, it's much easier to stay right with God when I'm reading Scripture and going to Confession, so i probably need to get on that.

These next 9 days we are rockin' prayers to St. Ann (at first I was like, 'shoooot...this is a freakin' long novena! But now I'm realizing how AWESOME it is that we are taking the time to address 9-10 different saints! Can never have too many praying for you) and St. Ann is Jesus' GRANDMA. We all know how grandmas just have their way...you KNOW Jesus can't say 'no' to his MOM, let alone GRANDMA. Let's get on it, St. Ann!!

Peace, Love, and Rock and Roll-

Oh, and I should say I'm headed back to the Buckeye State in, oh, 24 hours for my 10 YEAR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION. Yeah, about that grad school stuff, I had to come BACK to DC to go to CLASS. Not cool. But it is what it is, and I feel OLD, but BRING ON the 10 year!!!

I'm sure I'll have more to reflect on after that!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Don't Call Him a Sissy....

You may think of him along with bunnies and Bambi, but he is so much more!

Prayer of St. Francis

Today is a Sunday as well as the feast of St. Francis. Double Feast-Day Whammee! Whoo hoo!

Usually, when saints' feast days fall on a Sunday, they are trumped by the Feast of the Resurrection (you, know...the feasts which ARE our Sundays? )Understandably so! But St. Francis is sooo well liked, that people are still acknowledging him today (again, understandably so!) But don't go treking out to that birdfeeder you got in your backyard with St. Francis on it just yet...

As popular as St. Francis is, I still think he kind of gets a bad wrap. Well, maybe bad is not the word, but I don't think he is recognized for all that he is. People just recognize him as the guy who calmed a wolf and digs nature/animals. This can turn him into kind of a mushy-hippie 'sissy' from Assisi. (though there is NOTHING wrong with hippies! My parents still stage sit-ins in their living room...)

It's just not true. Francis was a rich soldier who came from a family of wealth and went off to war. He had a conversion during the war when he became hurt and sick. This post-war Francis is what we think of when we think of him, but I like to remember him because of his powerful conversion.

He wasn't a 'sissy'. Any guy who stands up to the Bishop and his rich dad and takes off his fancy clothes to don rags is hardcore! And God felt so too. He called Francis to 'rebuild' his church. And, like many of us, Francis misinterpretted that call. He literally thought it was to build a church- again, not a sissy thing to do! Layering stones and bricks- ya gotta be tough! But then we he realized that meant figuratively re-buidling the Church- even tougher.

I looked seriously at a Franciscan order before realizing I probably had more in common with the Pauline way of life. (St. Francis might be tough in some ways, but St. Paul is uber-tough). Not to compare the two, but stonings and exiles and speaking with a double-edge sword? That's just more along the lines with this sassy, thick exterior that God has given ME. Though,clearly, I'm drawn to Franciscan types too! We Paul-types need the Francis'in our lives to balance us out. (Though you will NEVER see me, I'm pretty sure, cuddling up and cooing with small animals. If you do, that will be the time for exile and stones...just kidding ;)

But that's why I like to remember the other things about St. Francis- his radical conversion, his renunciation of wealth, his mis-interpretation of God's call but then an obedience to discerning and following the true call.

And one of my favorite things I read about St. Francis when I was discerning, was his relationship with Lady Poverty. I think this concept that Francis developed and embraced is a way for all of us to live, but it's probably especially helpful to guys who are embracing the life of celibacy. It gives them an image- a woman- to fight for, to live for, to honor. I know that St. Therese (who's feast was just 3 days ago- shout out Therese!) gave such beautiful, flowery descriptions of her beloved-Jesus- that were helpful to me when I am trying to renounce everything and make Jesus my first love. So Francis describes Lady Poverty as a worthy figure to embrace and love for men (and women) alike.

Francis is also remembered by this prayer (that he most likely may not have actually developed, but certainly lived)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

This is prayer is hard. core!! No sissy can ASK to love, console, and understand more than they are loved, consoled, or understood. Shoot.

And that is something I believe Francis believed and understood and lived and why I want to model myself after him. His radical love for Christ and Lady Poverty. Amen!

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!! (Just don't ask me to snuggle up to Bambi any time soon, okay? I'm not there yet ;)


Monday, September 28, 2009

I Gotta Feeling...

Yes, this post title IS echoing the current Black Eyed Peas hit. OVERPLAYED but still kind of awesome. You can't help singing along when Fergie shouts out her adlibs (SMASH IT. LIKE OH MY GAWD...shout out Naj and the recycling crew! ;)

But I chose the title because I had been having a feeling lately that I needed a kind of retreat. Prayer in the morning's been great, the novena has been rockin' (way more than I thought, surprisingly. Who wants to pray to be totally open to God's Will- I mean HONESTLY OPEN. I'm talking His will which could possibly include, I don't know, remaining single forever?! I know, right? But surrender is a beautiful thing, and God knows our hearts...), but I needed a little extra me n Jesus time.

One of the volunteers from the youth group I used to work with in VA let me know that they were taking a group to Awakening Fest- an all day Christian concert in NoVA. I found that quite a few kids whom I had worked with were going, and like I said, I had just been having this feeling lately...that I needed to get back to my roots in a way.

Time to TESTIFY! (who remembers the short lived Kanye song by the same name? I know Kanye is taboo these days for many reasons, but that was one of my jams circa, say, I dunno- 2004 maybe?) anywho...

Christian concerts like the one I went to this weekend were pretty crucial in my personal relationship with Jesus. I must admit, it was the non-denominational Protestants in my life that jump started me on my walk with Jesus. And witnessing the concert this Saturday, I remembered why.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters get down to basics. They speak of Christ's personal love for each of us as the reason He died on the Cross. They preach often that we are saved by His Cross and Resurrection. Done and Done.

And that is the heart of it- God became Man to die for us to save us because He loves us. I know I just talked about this a couple blogs ago with the John 3:16 reading, so I will spare you my football poster comment(s) again...

For me, I needed to get back to that personal love. That reminder that, yes, Jesus died for me and He'd do it again because He loves me that much.

And it has become clear to me in my walk with Jesus, that my Catholic faith adds SO. MUCH. to that Truth. And I couldn't help but think- as I often do- how much MORE amazing would that concert be if the Eucharist were present and Christ could be worshiped while He was truly present there before us (He was pretty present anyways- it was raining all day, and it seemed kind of appropriate to me. Jesus raining down His love and mercy.... but we know how the Eucharist draws us even closer to Him).

The same youth leader who told me about the event reminded me that the Gospel this Sunday (and then again today at daily Mass) was 'anyone who is not against us, is for us'- a pretty ecumenical message. And so I pray for Catholics and for our other Christian brothers and sisters and that we can become more united in our ministry and our proclamation of Jesus and His message of HOPE in the world. The Protestants definitely have that simple Gospel message and ZEAL down. But our Catholicism has a rich, rich bounty that adds even more to that. For example:

IT'S OLD. In both of my grad classes, we are reading old catechisms and I totally geek out over them. We went to see the rare books collection in our Library, and me and my whole class were all like: 'oooo....a 17th century children's catechism! Look at the pictures of the seven deadly sins!' Kind of sick, I know. (BTW, it is a fact that I've spent more time in the library in 4 weeks of grad school than 4 years of undergrad. Sorry, mom and dad...) But it is just amazing to me what a deep history the Catholic Church has! We have maintained rituals and teachings from the very beginnings of Christianity. Our faith stems from Jesus' initiation of Peter as our Rock and what Christ left to the apostles. Amazing! (It is also amazing to me that some of the catechisms we've seen in recent years haven't changed from like the 1500's, which has positives and negatives...I'm working out that thesis in my head right now ;)

Anyways, I am thankful for the opportunity to get 'back to my roots' today in my personal relationship with Jesus, in being re-connected with the fruits of some of my ministry efforts, and the rich history of our Church which involves many people of different backgrounds and points of view. May we all bear much fruit for the growth of the kingdom on earth and in heaven.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Dreams

My apologies to Aristotle from whom I stole the title of this post from his original work. "Why then, Julia, have you posted a pic of Sigmund Freud?", you ask. Well, when looking up images of Aristotle, several scary images of statues popped up, and we all know how I feel about statues. I also remember reading a text by the same name by Freud in college, so I suppose I'm not the first to gank the title. So there.

Phew! My brain is ALL. OVER. the place today. Blame it on grad school, blame it on dreams. Blame it on the a-ah-ah-ah-alco...what's that, Jaime Foxx?

Have you seen those new Bing! commercials where a person asks their parent or spouse a question and they reply with several somewhat related (but not really) responses repeatedly until they appear to resemble the spawn of the devil and the main character is left to back away slowly and think, 'why did I ask'?

I'm like that today. Try me.

"Julia, how are you today?"

I hate it when someone puts the roll of toilet paper on the dispenser so the sheets come under instead of over. I love it when people cutting or trimming the lawn stop for you so you can pass by. Did I finish cutting the lawn? That episode of Mad Men with the tractor in the office was disturbing.

And so also applies when I pray today and I ask God, 'what's Your Dream for me? What's my life's Dream?'

First of all, speaking in terms of 'dreams' is somewhat against my nature. I mean, I like dream interpretation. I find that very interesting. But here I don't mean dreams in the literal sense, but the figurative one.

Now, I'm the realistic pessimist, remember? Dreams are for optimists. I don't speak in dreams and rainbows and kittens. I just don't.

So where did I come up with the question, then, of 'my life's dream'?

Another idea I stole, I'm afraid. From this guy:

Blessed James Alberione. Still love 'em. He came up with this prayer:

"Your dream, O Master, is to lay hold of me, to change me with your divine life.
Your dream is to purify me, to free me from my selfishness and my faults.
Your dream is to re-create me, to make me a new person in your image.
Your dream is to fill me with your charity, to make me love the Father and all my brothers and sisters just as you do.
Your dream is to bind me to you with the closest bonds, to bind out hearts together as one.
Your dream is to make me strong, to impart to me your divine power, so that I can overcome evil and be constant in doing good.
Your dream is to enflame me with an untiring zeal to spread your kingdom in the world.
Your dream is to possess me in this life and in the life to come,
O Master, may your dream come true,
May I be able to give all that you ask of me."

Good, right? I've known of this prayer for a couple years now, but until recently haven't been able to pray it with my whole heart. Not that I'm exactly 'living the dream' now- not at all.

I am currently praying yet ANOTHER novena, though this time with friends, which definitely adds an element of HOPE to the novena. Strength in numbers! It pretty much is a novena not too different from Alberione's prayer. We want to become more open to God's 'Life Dream' for us; for His Dream and our Dream to be one.

Look at me all up in this piece talking about DREAMS. Huh. God must be doing some kind of work in me :)

So what is my life's dream? Heck if I know. When you ask me that, I go back to sounding like that Bing commercial: 'I want to be a writer. NO, a wife! No a long time student! A volunteer!' I will say, though, in spite or despite of all the turmoil this year in trying to figure out 'my life's dream' I have become content in the waiting. Ah! Gasp!

And maybe that's God's Dream for me.

Ooooo....that's deep.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Angels (and Demons)

First of all, today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The readings today remind us of God's love for us- so much so, that He sent His Son to die so we might have life. I'm always appreciative of today's Gospel passage- John 3:16- because it just sums up this idea of God's love for us and Christ's mission so clearly. And because you see it on posters at football games.

I also always love reading today's 2nd reading from St. Paul in the brievary: "For God did not deem equality with God something to be grasped...rather He emptied Himself, taking the form of the slave..." (Phil. 2:6-11) It's a reminder during the times where I am impatient or confused by God- thinking I have to do MORE and be perfect- for me to see that God doesn't necessarily want that confusion for us. There is beauty in the mystery of God, but He also tried to set a clear example for us by sending Jesus.

I needed that clear reminder today. My sister got married this weekend and when someone that close to gets married, there's also SO much to think about! And my little head was left in a whirlwind after this weekend's events (or maybe it was just the ridiculous amount of jello shots that were taken at the encouraging of my 86 year old grandmother throughout the weekend)

It really was a perfect day, weather wise, and also everything just came together perfectly and fell into place. God's hand was certainly all over this day and He made that known to my family and I in many ways. Here are some pics of the beautiful bride and our day! (1st and 3rd photos courtesy of Mr. Fred Ginter)

God also showed me His love for me, not only through the very clear readings today and the obvious blessings of my family this weekend, but in a very clear and personal way yesterday in the BWI airport parking lot of all places!

I had just taken the bus back to my car from the airport, my head full of thoughts from the weekend and the typical single girl questions that come with witnessing weddings: 'will that ever be me? Does God want that for me? Do I want that? How can you know? Who will it be? yadda yadda yadda...'

And before I had any opportunity to feel sorry for myself and let the demons of temptation slip in while waiting in line paying for my parking lot ticket, I'm greeted at the parking lot booth with a strong and friendly 'Hello!' from the woman inside.

'Hello!' I respond.

'Where did you GET to go this weekend?' the woman asks as I reach for my credit card.

'Um...GET to go? Er, ah, well, Cleveland. So I don't know if you can really say GET to. But I was with my family, so that was fun." I respond.

She says, 'oh, Cleveland! Well that sounds nice! By the way, I am 27 years cancer free today. I was healed by the Lord Jesus Christ and I am cancer free. We should trust in Jesus because He can do all things.'

Whoa. Alright, then! I told her I really believed that and God to bless her. She said the same to me and then I was on my way.

I immediately recognized that in that moment, God was speaking to me and that was such a clear message to me from God. Just as I was about to ask all kinds of questions and potentially lead myself from trusting in God's plan (AGAIN!) He sends me this woman to remind me that God can do all things. Amen! And I am carrying that message of HOPE with me today!

So she was the angel that I reference in this title. The angels in all of the Gospels and Old Testament proclaim a message to others, and she was a definite herald of God's message to me. As for the demons, they are the temptations and thoughts that enter into our heads that try to keep us from hearing and following God's message.

A case can also be made that bridesmaid's satin is of the devil. As I most recently noticed- with the change of only one letter satin becomes satan. Coincidence? I think not. It does not wrinkle, it is water resistant- all things that natural fabrics are not. And wearing it can cause you to end up doing things like, oh, I don't know...drinking too much and wind up sleeping in it? Not that I know that for a fact or anything...I'm just saying. It could happen.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blessings and Booze

Ha! So my friend and I decided this subject heading would be a great title for this blog or for perhaps maybe my memoirs one day. It really was spawned because she keeps a blog called Baking, Books, and Booze (you should check it out- it's hilarious and has some great recipes and book recommendations! Shout out, E!)

And also because one of the wineries I like to frequent out in Leesburg, VA is having this event that I think is genius and wish I could go to!(see 2nd Annual Blessing of the Harvest)

Blessings and Booze? Yes please!

Last Sunday, my aforementioned friend and I did the best. thing. ever. We rented a limo to take us and 8 other people to three of our favorite wineries (not the aforementioned winery, though. Next time!)

I really recommend this as a way to travel- especially when alcohol is involved! It was a blessing. On so many levels. To be altogether with friends, enjoying God's great creation (rolling hills, fermented grapes... someone give me a Nature badge) and just celebrating life. Here are some pics from our day out in the 'burg (Middleburg, that is!):

And it reminded me that I really need to remember the simple pleasures and blessings in my life. No, really!

Re-reading my past few blogs, I am pretty proud of myself! This pessimistic realist has been quite hopeful, it seems! I was down a little bit yesterday, because when I approach my 'situation' from a negative angle ('I can't believe I'm still in this job, still in this state of unknowing when everyone around me has their prayers answered, etc.'), sure- that's no fun and leads to nowhere! But when I think of how much God has given me- the blessings of a healthy family, roof over my head, friends, WINETASTING EXCURSIONS,as Hallmark Movie as that may seem, it does give me hope.

And as I've mentioned before, reading the Bible helps. And Confession. It just reminds me these things are tools given to us for a reason! When I'm not reading God's Word or have a bunch of smelly sin built up, I totally feel pessimistic. Who's surprised? Nobody.

Speaking of keeping it simple (er, stupid? can I get a K.I.S.S.? ha! oh, on so many levels, though...) the readings today were a good reminder of the simple values we as Christians keep to keep us on track (and I realize I'm like embedded hyperlink happy today....my apologies)

So I'm keepin' on keepin' on, hoping in the Word....going to be witnessing my sister, Janet GETTING MARRIED this weekend. That's going to be intense and most likely blogworthy.

Yes bridesmaid's dress #7 will be involved, but I'm thinking I've saved the best for LAST :)(and mostly because I don't plan on buying bridesmaid satin ever. again. That means YOU, friends! :)

Peace and HOPE,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Sassy Girl's Guide to....

So I'm driving to work today listening to yet another roommate mix cd (we have one for every emotion and sentiment, if you couldn't tell). This one was made for me after we attended YET ANOTHER wedding and it was a compilation of songs from the drive up mixed in with some sassiness to sustain us 'til the next one.

I was realizing that I'm in a very different place than I was a year ago when this cd was made and that's GOOD. If you've been reading my facebook statuses, tweets, and various other forms of social networking, you've perhaps noticed I'm trying to be positive these days.

Nothing's really changed since that time of the wedding last year- I'm in the same job, still single, still living with the same girls- but I have a routine, I've got some of my 'swag' back....I've got HOPE, kids.

This doesn't mean my trust is perfect, but I am recognizing my sources for hope. I have my time in prayer that gives me hope. I have God's Word and Sacraments that give me hope. I have my friends and family who give me hope (which, I should say, I really realized at my cousin's wedding this past weekend. AS much as I may complain about weddings, I will go ahead and admit there is something hopeful about seeing two people make a life commitment to each other. They have so much hope in entering into their marriage, you can't help but have hope for them and for yourself. I think it's even more visible and tangible when you see it in your family. I can't wait to see it at my sister's wedding in- SHOOT- about TWO WEEKS!!!).

Grad school is also giving me hope- a sense of purpose. But in reading Cardinal Van Thuan's 'Testimony of Hope' (I told you that man's got hope all over the place) we have to be careful (at least I do!) of not putting our hope in the WORKS of God, but IN GOD.

Does that make sense? I think for the past year that was my problem. I wanted to trust and hope in the WORKS of God. As Cardinal Van Thuan mentions, his pastoral ministry to the people of his diocese, for example. We can't put trust in that work. We have to trust GOD Himself.

We choose GOD first, not His Works. The works come after. For instance, when I had my little conversion in high school, I was choosing God Himself. I had not experienced all the work He would do in my life- the ministry, the traveling, the convent. I didn't choose to follow Him because of all that. I just chose to turn to HIM.

And arguably, He chooses US first, anyways! We just need to choose Him back.

All this hoping has also inspired me to pursue more my desire to share these works of the Lord and the Lord with others. Of course I have to be focused on just sharing Him first. But if it's His Will, I would LOVE to write a book, or two, or three eventually.

I'm thinking a series like, 'The Sassy Girl's Guide to...' Scripture. Weddings. Pop culture. Catholicsm. I've got big plans. And I know God does too. I pray that they are one in the same. That we are one in the same.

But perhaps be on the lookout for the 'Sassy Girl's Guide' series in a Christian/Catholic bookstore near you soon ;) I'd love your feedback/ thoughts on how to make this happen! I probably should finish grad school first. Author's bios always look better when the have those degrees and initials after their names...no?

United in Hope,