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