Thursday, May 28, 2009

'Really?' 'Seriously?' 'Her?'

Ten points for those of you who can name the TV shows the above quotes are from.

(It's not hard really. They are three of my favs):

-Saturday Night Live (think Seth Meyer's Weekend Update)
-Grey's Anatomy (think Meredith, Christina, and Izzy circa Seasons 1& 2) and -Arrested Development (think anytime George Michael Bluth's girlfriend Anne was mentioned)

Well, these have been my sentiments to God for pretty much two years now:

'Really?' 'Seriously?' Her?' (the 'her' being me).

You want to call ME to a convent? Really?

You want me to sell alot of my things and live with a bunch of women? Seriously?

Me, in all my brokenness? Her?

I just had a friend write to me today (and this is really helpful! My friends are awesome) that the bigger the 'Seriously?' The bigger the 'YES'. Ooo...that's good right? I'm still not sure if that means MY 'yes' will have to be bigger or God's will be bigger...probably mine. But I like to think God's YES will then be bigger too if I say 'Yes'.

Well, apparently that aforementioned 'Yes' of mine to entering a convent was short lived. But lately I've also been saying 'seriously?' to God ALOT.

You want me to LEAVE the convent now? Really?

I'm feeling called to ministry in the worst possible time to look for a job. Seriously?

Getting into a car accident on the way to work this morning. Her? (This Her might mean me or the lovely girl who actually did hit me. She was very sweet and I pray for her! But yeah, true story, unfortunately)

Anyways, as I said, I really like my friend's point about the bigger my 'Seriously?' the bigger the 'YES', but I'm having a hard time figuring out what God wants of my Yes! A 'yes' to surrendering a job search over to Him? a 'Yes' to being patient? A 'yes' to trusting that His 'YES' to me will be equally as big?

Yeah, probably all of that, huh?

I still feel like I have alot to address in regards to the 'Her?' as well. I question ALL THE TIME how God can possibly be calling me to certain things. Marriage? Really? Kids? Seriously? Her? Maybe all of this waiting is to get to know myself a little better, so then my yes can be bigger, as will His.

We shall see!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Plus One!

Oh gosh, writing that subject heading just now reminded me of the AWESOME boy band that was meant to be like the Christian version of Nsync! Plus One? Anybody? (Their 'plus One' is GOD, isn't that clever?? ;)

I think that I bought their cd back in 2000 in the height of my Nsync obsession hoping that I would think of more holy things when listening to men singing in perfect harmony...(isn't that an occasion of sin for everyone??)

Anyways...I write this because I just noticed that my LAST post on the Ascension was post #100! Whoo hoo! And this is the 'plus one'.

101 posts ago, I was getting ready to enter a convent. Pretty sure I was writing from my parents house in Ohio, had sold half my stuff, and was packing up the suitcase full of white blouses, blue skirts, and pairs of nylons. I know. You wish you could've seen me then! There are some pics still lurking on this blog, so it shouldn't be hard for to satisfy that thirst for some Julia in blue skirts. Ooo, like this one:

That's a good one. It's my 'discernment' face. Ha.

I have told a few of my close friends that recently, FINALLY, I am starting to feel more like myself. I'm working out a lot, praying better, have a daily routine, acquired a bit more of the stylish attire I was once known for pre-convent...the sun has even started to kiss my blonde hair that I covered with brown dye last Sept. So the Julia that packed that suitcase on NET and then again to St. Louis, she's coming back! 100 posts later! ;)


"When they had gathered together they asked him,'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He answered them, 'It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,and you will be my witnesses...'

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight."- Acts 1:1-11

So the day has arrived- Ascension Sunday! I kind of missed out on the Resurrection of Easter Sunday this year since I had death by ear infection, and the rest of these Easter days have been kind of sluggish spiritually. I'm showing up, I'm putting in the time with prayer and Mass, but I'm still kind of clueless like the Apostles. I need some of that Wisdom of the Holy Spirit!

I've started a novena to the Holy Spirit in hopes that God will reveal how He wants me to witness soon. And actually of all the gifts of the Spirit I'm praying for this year, I'm gonna have to say 'Fortitude' is the One I'm hoping most for. Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge were the ones I'd always prayed heavily for in the past. Fortitude and Counsel kind of came naturally to me, I think. But God's shaken everything up, and this year, the race is starting to get a little tiring, so I'm needing the Spirit's Fortitude, and I'm gonna throw in a shout out for the gift of 'Counsel' for good measure as well.

I've mentioned the Ascension alot in this blog, and now it's here! Jesus finally is showing up, filling the disciples in (kind of), and then taking off to enter our eternal kingdom. I've been hoping and praying, I'm sure like the Apostles were, that he'd show up again soon. I have hope in these last days between the Ascension and Pentecost that He will do what He promises- that He will give the Spirit to help!!!

The idea of 'witness' has surely changed for me this year. In the past, I was always into the much more visible witness- service projects, Guatemala, NET, ministry, religious life. I left the convent on Pentecost last year, excited to return to witnessing, and I just haven't- as I've discussed many times- fell into another 'call'. But my friends in my women's group (praise God for you ladies!) assure me that I am still witnessing, maybe it's just in small ways.

In our women's group, we've been talking alot in these Easter days about women's role in the Church and their role as Apostles in the Early Church. Mary Magdalene being the first at the tomb to receive the 'good news', for one. She had a big message to carry! But she didn't carry it like Paul or Peter or any of the men, she gave the message she was called to give, but then when they didn't believe her, what did she do? She led them to the tomb to see for themselves, so that they could go out to all corners of the earth proclaiming. And I'm sure she prayed and proclaimed, too, that message, but was it in the same way?

Don't get me wrong, I know that there are women who are called to do big things and give a big witness, but it certainly is in a different way. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, her witness is one of the biggest, and it was so silent so often.

All this to say, we've been talking about the quiet witness of many biblical women in our group, and that is new for me. I'm not sure why God is perhaps calling me to this kind of witness now, when it's been so big and powerful in the past. Plus, He knows me....He knows I'm not the meek and quiet type! ;) And that is why I am trusting He will reveal another big role for me one day, but in the meantime, this has been an exercise in humility and trust for sure.

There is much WAITING in between the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost, it seems. The Apostles are told they'd receive this help of the Spirit, but it's all so uncertain until they actually experience it. And in the above reading, (the first reading for this Sunday) when they ask Jesus if He is going to reveal the kingdom now, He pretty much says, 'no, you'll have to wait and be uncertain until the Spirit comes'.

All I can say, is 'Come, Holy Spirit, Come!!!' And the sooner the better ;) please? Thanks.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's Gonna Be Me

This could be me...

The Final Rose

So I am going to stray from my usual Biblical reflection blog posts, and stick more with the pop culture references today.

It should be no surprise to you all that I do enjoy indulging in the occasional reality show. And by occasional, I mean, pretty much all the ones on ABC and Bravo. Oh, and American Idol. Sometimes MTV. I digress.

I used to watch reality shows with a little discomfort- people getting 'kicked off', married off- but now it's just become a part of our cultural vocabulary. Oh, and now I'm getting philosophical again, and this post was not supposed to be that!

I am writing to state my love for reality TV and The Bachelorette. And also to introduce my idea, which I've shared with some, for 'The Catholic Bachelorette'.

Clearly, there is a market for such a show. Remember 'God or the Girl' that ran on A&E a while ago? A lot of people I know tuned into that to see if the boys would choose seminary or another vocation. And there are TONS of good, single Catholic girls I know looking for love. Clearly, our culture doesn't see anything wrong with a proposal in three weeks time (not saying it's okay, just saying) but we Catholics know that if it's God's will, it's God's I can foresee that being okay on this version of the show as well. We could make it an option.

I foresee substituting hot tub and make out scenes for Daily Mass and personal prayer. There would still be all the group dates (don't we love courting in the Church? Yes, we do!) and then she could choose one for one on one dates like the show too. And it wouldn't be offensive because everyone would be thinking about God's will. P

If someone didn't get a rose it would be okay because it 'wasn't meant to be'. We pray to St. Therese for 'roses' all the would totally be a sign :)

Really, I just like the idea of 30 men wooing me...I wonder, though, if there are 30 Catholic men out there that we could find! One friend did question how we would go about the screening process (we all know there are a few 'crazy Catholics' out there) and another friend pointed out that it might be a little weird if all the men showed up for Mass shirtless (in the event of a hot tub scene for Daily Mass substitution).

Other than that, I foresee no issues for this venture. Anyone who has a connection with EWTN, hook me up. I think something young and relevant is just what that channel :)


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fixin' a Hole Part 2

I'm just gonna save myself the extra strain of circular thought processes and analysis and just post things from this guy- Jacques Philippe- from now on. (He's the author of the book I quoted last blogpost, and also author of another one of my all time life-changing favs: Searching for and Maintaining Peace). As proven last post, he says pretty much everything I'm trying to get to come out of my brain anyways.

Here is how he closes Interior Freedom. It's actually words that the Lord speaks to a Spanish visionary, so I guess Philippe can't even really take credit for it's amazing-ness:

"You can only respond freely to the calls of Grace when your own truth becomes clear, when you accept it humbly, and when, on that basis, you maintain conversation with God, realizing that everything that happens to you is part of a loving and providential project of your Father God" pg 133

"Don't be afraid of yourselves! Don't be afraid of all that you are; in your human reality, where God pitches His tent to dwell in you." pg 134

"Only in the measure you discover yourself will you discover the depths of His Love."

See, this is why I love Jesus. As angry and frustrated as I get in living the Christian life, it's stuff like this that keeps me moving along with Him.

For me, that first quote is what I'm struggling with. Calls. Grace. MY OWN CLEAR TRUTH. Thanks for filling me in, Jesus, with this. Now can you fill me in on what my truth is? That is, after all, what I've been blogging about and wondering this whole year. Hmphf.

But when I was praying this morning, God reminded me of something that I learned on NET, and in discernment, and in He and I, and this current book...(you think I would remember it by now?) We only have to take our identity in Him and being His Son/Daughter. Our identity of being loved and valued by Him. No matter what. Done.

Well, easier said than done. That's why we're running the race....


Monday, May 11, 2009

Fixin' a Hole

Yeah for another song reference title! This one is a classic, though, and not in an 80's-licious way, but a true classic- a Beatles' tune. Which, the Beatles are like a religion in my family!

It was the song that popped into my head as I was leaving the Shrine today after Adoration and Mass. God had just revealed to me something pretty convicting. Something that definitely has led to this little 'hole' that I'm stuck in currently.
But I trust that He is going to help me fix it. And the cure, the 'fix', my friends is Grace.

Another thing that I couldn't quite put my finger on of late, much like the absence of surrender, was this absence of awareness and trust in Grace in my life. Sure, I've been receiving the Sacraments, but I haven't been fully reliant on His Grace. Most likely because that comes with surrender!

So I'm gonna share a little part of this dark hole that God showed me today, only because I think it might help others too. I was pretty embarrassed and convicted, as I said, to see this inside of me. I had just gone to confession Sat, too! Guess it's time to go back...

ENTITLEMENT. It's an awful word that has infected our culture to no end. It's what I saw when I worked in youth ministry as the root to many parents' and teens' misunderstandings of the Church. It is what has made our culture looked down upon by many other nations and cultures.We think we are owed something. At all times.

And it's true, we should see ourselves as valuable creatures, but we go from one extreme to another. Entitlement does not necessarily mean we know our worth at all. It actually is only a cover for not believing that we've been given something (Grace!) freely. If we knew our worth, we wouldn't feel entitled to anything, as crazy as that sounds.

It's true, though. When we have accepted and are content with where we are, we don't feel like we need anything else. But our consumerist culture has convinced us that this is never, ever true. That we always are lacking something and have a right to have more. That we need more.

What are we really entitled to? I will argue basic human needs- Food, shelter, water,love. These are our rights. Am I entitled to know the future? No. Am I entitled to really anything else other than love and shelter and nourishment? I don't think so. And believing that this isn't the case just leads us to more heartache and a very vicious cycle.

So I spent years trying to get kids to realize this about our culture, and I still think I'd like to do that by pursuing ministry, a degree, and the like. But today God showed me I have been coming to Him in prayer with a sense of entitlement myself. Ouch! And there is a fine line between this and trust. He wants me to trust that He can give me anything I need or want. But not necessarily believe that I have to have earned or merited any of it.

This is where Grace comes in. Grace was/is given freely. That is the beauty of our faith. We don't deserve it, but He gives it freely. We receive Grace by His death and Resurrection and His instillation of the Sacraments.

And Grace is LOVE. And while we are entitled to Love, it is a free gift. No matter how much we pray and fight and plead, we will always get the same amount: which is endless.

God made me see today that I am putting conditions on His unconditional love! UGH! I'm trying to fit it into boxes: ie- "because I pray really hard, you will give me this. Because I gave a year of my life to a religious order, I deserve this." Ugh! Gross! Fix that darn hole!

But though there is that fine line that I am riding, I have the potential to come back to the side Jesus wants me on. Not by my own work, though. But by Grace.

I am trying to pray a novena for an answer to something and it has been a test for me in trust. Do I believe Jesus will really come through for me? Or do I feel entitled to the answer? To a degree, we have to believe that we have a right to know, that is why we pray novenas and the like. But I realized today it's not that we have a right to know, it's that God loves us and we should believe that Love as a free gift.

WOW. This is deep stuff for sure. I'm still not sure that I am 'fixin' a hole', but recognizing that the hole is there was good for me. And I am going to try and rely more on Grace for the cure.

"Take Lord, Receive...Give me only Your Love and Your Grace. That's Enough for me".

I think last week I was focused more on the surrender part of this prayer. Now I'm thinking of the acceptance of Grace and Love being all we need. All we are entitled to, but it's enough.

I'll close (I never know how to close things, I apologize. If I were giving this as a talk while on NET, my teammates would've been motioning frantically for me to have wrapped this up moments ago. Also, my conclusions to every paper I've ever written were always the suck) with this quote from 'Interior Freedom' by Jacques Phillipe:

"Taking our stand on grace leads to life, because it enables love to grow, expand and flourish. Grace is given freely, and this free giving is the only law under which love can exist. Jesus says: 'You received without pay, give without pay. (Matt 10:8)' God's love is absolutely free: we don't have to merit it or win it, we only have to receive and welcome it by faith...

Living according to grace is the remedy for pride. We realize that our works are not our own but are what God gives us the grace to do. This is also the remedy for despair, because no matter how terrible our failures, we are never doomed to inevitable damnation- we can always return to God's absolutely free and unconditional love" pgs 116-117

(So, yeah, I pretty much said what he said, but in far more words :)


Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's always good when there's a picture:

St. Ignatius (since I reference him below) looking a little bit taken aback by God's angels. I guess this was one of his 'aha' moments. I wouldn't mind a few angels bearing a little news right about now...

By George, By Joe, By Somebody...

I think she's got it! (most likely by Jesus ;)

So it's going to be a YEAR since I left the convent in like 3 days. CRAZY. Not so much the fact that it's been a year, or even that I actually lived in a convent at one point in time. No, for me, it's mostly the fact that I'm pretty much exactly where I started.

Well, not exactly. That's dramatic. Clearly, the experiences of the past few years have been formative and I am different. But lately when I talk to people, I know they sense my frustration and the lack of joy in my current state- simply because in my eyes (and the eyes of the culture) I am still a single, laywoman, working a 9-5 living with roommates...the same old same old.

And I know I've said this before, why do we need the big 'aha!' vocation moments? Why do we look and wait for those to prove something to ourselves? We just do. I can't explain that now. I don't have the time or energy, frankly ;)

But my mini, personal 'aha' moment that came today was in reflecting on all of this- the year anniversary of my leaving, vocation, and all of the above.

I have lately been remembering my time in youth ministry and discernment of religious
life with some nostalgia. Wondering, "where did that go?" That being those feelings of certainty and most importantly- CALL. I had a CALL. I truly felt called to youth ministry and lived it as such as the time. And then, of course, I felt a call to enter the convent. And I was confident and certain in these CALLS. I miss having a call!

My brooding these past few months can pretty much come down to that- I miss having a call. And i know right now I'm 'called' to be in this current job, living with my roommates- I know that's a type of calling too. But it's much less certain for me, and for whatever reason, not really bringing me as close to Jesus as I would like. And THAT's the part I don't get.

Why won't You, Jesus, give me back a CALL that brings me close to You? This is the most frustrating of it all, I think.

I kind of feel a little bit like I did when on NET. I knew I was supposed to be there for a reason, but I had NO IDEA what the reason was. But clearly, that experience led to the next two certain CALLS I felt.

I have hope that this year has been like NET in that respect. But as we round the end of'm starting to get a little weary!

The other key to the two calls I felt of youth ministry and religious life was a lot of SURRENDER. I was constantly surrendering events in youth ministry to the Holy Spirit, and obviously, I surrendered physically and emotionally alot when entering religious life.

This key of surrender finally struck me for real the other day. I used to pray the Ignatian Prayer of Surrender ALL THE TIME after NET and in the convent. So I've started praying it again, and I do feel like I'm getting somewhere.

So, I'm starting to put the little pieces together, and I'm grateful for that insight. But it certainly still requires a great deal of surrender and trust and hope. So we shall pressure, Lord. I'm just waiting on a very important CALL here. Anytime. Really. Any day now, would be great ;)

And for your own spiritual enjoyment, I give you, the Ignatian Prayer of Surrender:

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it
all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

That's right. It's intense. But it works, friends!

Until the next serious introspective moment...Maybe I'll have something exciting to report soon. Prayers appreciated!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Movie Review!

I haven't blogged about a movie in a while. Guess I haven't see any new worthwhile ones lately. Not since Oscar season anyways. I know I blogged about Doubt and Young at Heart, which I know are both on DVD now (and if haven't seen, should go see!).

Last night, the roomies and I saw The Soloist with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. It is about a writer for the LA Times, Steve Lopez (Downey Jr) who finds Foxx's character, Nathanial Ayers Jr., playing the violin (I know the picture shows him playing the cello, that comes later. I do know my stringed instruments :)- homeless- in a park close to the newspaper office. Lopez is struck by Ayers' talent, and does some research on him for a story. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say Lopez becomes very involved in Ayers' life and the rest of the movie is about that.

Living in DC, we encounter the homeless alot too, but I've never seen anything like the representation of LA's Skid Row. It is overwhelming and tragic to see that this level of homelessness exists in this country. So I really appreciated the movie's representation of reality, it seemed. It was not exploitive- which some "issue" movies can turn a serious issue into something light and cozy and fluffy. I think the way they presented homelessness was very real, but I've never been to LA.

That was only one of the reasons I really liked the movie. There are so many more! Not only was it not gratuitous in any way with violence or sex (proving you CAN have a good movie without it!) but the music that Ayers' plays and is in love with -Beethoven, Bach, Mozart in particular- is a character in the film as well. They really let music play a role and will have entire scenes of just a piece playing Ayers' head. I appreciated that they let the Classics play and didn't cheat them or cut them short. They really allowed the music to have life in the film which I think made Ayers' character and story all more powerful.

And it is just incredibly acted. I knew Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx were good actors- they've played intense roles before. But they are SO good and just natural in this. They really make you think they ARE Lopez and Ayers.

It is all based on a true story, which makes the story, to me even more amazing. Definitely check it out- if not in the theater on DVD. But I would recommend the theater since music does play such a big role, you can feel like you are right there with them at a concert :)

Hope this movie inspires you as it did me. I have had some limited experience with poverty and homelessness, so it is subject matter that I feel passionate about. And I can say, when you are dealing with poverty and homelessness, you ask yourself- like Lopez's character- what can I do? How involved should I be? We always want to do more. I know when I was in Guatemala that was the case, but after spending a couple months there I saw, there is only so much we can do. I think Lopez encounters these questions and I could relate to them.

Plus studying Classical music for almost 20 years, I could really appreciate the music's role in this. It made me want to work on a concerto again! I hope you enjoy it too!