Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vanity and Vulnerability

Summer is winding down and any time something comes to end we pause to reflect: "was it well done? did we make the most of our time? What did we even do, really?!"

Summer has definitely gone way too fast- possibly the most overused, understated phrase ever- but it's true! 2 more weeks of nannying and then I'm back at school for teacher meetings and training already. I definitely think it was a summer well spent, though. No one can say I wasted any time! I put many hours in, did a lot of stuff around DC, made trips to Ohio and Florida, and if my goal was not to sit on my couch all summer, well then, mission accomplished.

I also feel pretty good about my summer goal of maintaining somewhat of a prayer routine. I've continued to take time before going to "work" as a nanny, read the Scripture readings of the day, read a little bit from Pope Francis, and examine and reflect a little each day.

So you are probably saying, GOOD FOR YOU, JULIA. If you are one of my kinder friends, you mean that sincerely. If you are one of my more snarky friends, you mean that sarcastically (and I love you for it). And to each of you I say THANKS. I'm pretty proud of myself. But before we get into vanity, I want to address the latter subject of this post.

This past week I went to Florida and got to spend time with some of my besties. I was reflecting today that these people each love me and accept me for who I am, know me well, but still call me and challenge me to be even more vulnerable which is often difficult for me. In other words, these friendships don't stop at surface level. They easily could. We could just talk about what we have in common, gossip, or shop (almost all of my best friends do this last thing well ;), but we don't. We call each other out while still being loving. I have been blessed with many of these types of relationships throughout my life, with different people at different times, all calling me to something greater by simultaneously loving me but calling me outside of my comfort zone.

Today's first reading kind of addresses this need to go beyond the surface and artificial because it is all vanity:

" Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, [ the author of Ecclesiastes, often attributed to Solomon]
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property. 
This also is vanity and a great misfortune. 
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun? 
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest. 
This also is vanity. " - Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2: 21-23

Now as a writer, I hate the standard, contrived intro to an idea of: "vanity is defined as... blah, blah, blah." But as a writer, I also always want to know the origins of and research words! So for the purposes of this post:  Vanity can be defined as: "the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others." (Stephen LaMarche a la wikipedia...I never said my sources had to be legit for my posting purposes ;)

This definition kind of cuts me to the heart. This is something I think we all struggle with- pride/vanity defined as above. I know I can get really trapped in my own mind and selfish thoughts if not for the aforementioned friendships and, of course, faith. We can get caught up in our own abilities and become consumed by how attractive we appear, if not for our true friends and True God to rely on and love us no matter what.

I have mentioned several times on this blog the retreats that I have been a part of with the school, particularly the Kairos retreat which we've recently implemented. Tonight, the original leaders of our 1st Kairos are getting together and I'm excited to catch up with the kids. After hearing the readings at Mass this morning and thinking about this week and weekend's events, I was meditating on what makes the Kairos retreats so special. It has to do with the same I idea that I mentioned about my close friends- on Kairos, the kids make themselves vulnerable and truly open themselves up to God and each other in a way that they haven't prior. It gives them a chance to move past the vanity of the world and be vulnerable in a healthy way that allows them to grow personally and spiritually. I need to be constantly reminded of this healthy openness and vulnerability, so I'm grateful for the reminder today.

I'm just grateful for the friends, Mass readings, and prayer time that I've gotten to enjoy this summer. If it could stay summer for a few MORE weeks I'd be even more grateful, but as is also said later in the book of Ecclesiastes: "to every thing a season."

Enjoy the rest of your summer! And here are some Florida beach pics for you to enjoy:

 Palm trees just instantly give me peace!
Ah, the ocean waves!

God gave us a rainbow on the first day on the beach! Always a reminder of His Promise and love.


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