La Vita Bella

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“That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.”
~Edgar Allan Poe

I apologize that my titles are sometimes in a different language, not that I actually know the language, but Google translate is addicting…

There is something so beautiful though, about a particular phrase in another language. For instance: La vita bella – Life is beautiful. This week God has blessed me with some wonderful gifts, and I know that if I don’t share them then I will quickly forget them in the chaos of a particularly stressful day.

Do you ever have those weeks when you are taken by surprise by how well it goes, even though last week the same things happened and it made you question every single decision you’ve ever made? Well that is me, and this week all I can say is that I have been filled with peace. Despite being in circumstances that would typically stress me out, I have been filled with joy. I am at peace with where I am, who I am, and what I am doing. God is an unbelievable encourager. It is amazing the people He has given me at this time in my life – I desire nothing that He has not already given me.

The well known verse, “Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” was explained to me in a different light and I’ve been thinking about it recently. Yes, I’m with you, I would much rather think that God will give me everything I ask for, like a yacht and a llama, but I digress. Instead, take it to mean: delight in the Lord, and He will place His desires in your heart.

This week, I have felt the warm sunshine of God’s love on my heart and it has given me boldness to accept all that He is asking of me, because ultimately His desires are my desires. God is a generous and abundant giver, delighting in us in every moment of every day, even if we don’t take the time to notice. And today I feel it, today was a day filled with easy classes, a beautiful snowfall (which, in hindsight, I probably could have appreciated more), morning prayer with some lovely ladies, coffee (with creamer, of course), no pressing homework, catching up with family, and to finish the day, a bubble bath. For me, it was a reminder that God wants us to be happy, not simply in Heaven but here on earth as well.

Delight in the Lord, because He absolutely delights in you.

There is a prayer that I love written by Frederick Buechner that I recently read and I would like to share it with you.

Lord, catch me off guard today.

Surprise me with some moment of beauty or pain,

So that at least for the moment

I may be startled into seeing

That You are here in all your splendor,

Always and everywhere,

Barely hidden,

Beneath,

Beyond,

Within this life I breathe.

Les Joies d’Amis

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The joy of friends. There is so much joy that comes from strong, healthy, well-maintained friendships. Now, more than ever, this week I am so grateful for the people in my life, both back home and here in Kansas that I am blessed to call friends. I love that I have friends of all different types of personality. This is one thing I love about college – you have the opportunity to be in contact with so many diverse people. I have:

  • introverted friends
  • extroverted friends
  • friends that are 6’3
  • friends that are shorter than me (I know, crazy….)
  • friends with the same core religious beliefs as me
  • friends that have absolutely opposite beliefs
  • friends that make me laugh so hard I can’t breathe
  • friends that are older than me
  • friends that are monks (joys of living next to a monastery! :)
  • friends that don’t like people touching any of their own dairy products, but will share anything else.

Though they are all radically different, all of them challenge me, encourage me, and inspire to be a better person. 

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If you’ve never heard of dailyoddcompliment.com – you are missing out. Because it’s fantastic.

When I got to college last year, I made a novel discovery. I had to learn how to make new friends! Because I was able to grow up at such an amazing parish, most of my good friends I have known since I was a baby.

Being at college has allowed me to learn (more along the lines of “trial by fire”) – how to be a good friend and how to maintain healthy relationships. Oh, and don’t worry about my pride, I am still in the learning process, like everyone else. And I’m going to be honest, I fail monthly daily. Sometimes my selfishness gets in the way and I spend too much of the conversation talking about myself, sometimes my introverted nature gets in the way and I clam up and end up being that awkward one in the group who is absolutely silent, and sometimes my laziness gets in the way and I cancel plans or stop myself from making plans to see others. 

One thing I have been learning more recently is the importance of maintaining relationships with friends, but not trying to be good friends with everyone. It’s actually impossible to be good friends with everyone you know. This doesn’t mean that I have a license to not be friendly to everyone, but I have been getting into the habit of stretching myself too thin and not focusing on those friends that I sincerely hold close to my heart. I looked up one day and I realized that I spend an obscene a lot of time going on “coffee dates” and “lunch dates” and when the evening comes I just want to stay home! Those coffee and lunch dates were good, and they were filled with “catching up” on our lives, but I feel like they have been lacking something.

But just recently I rebelled. Against society. Well, that’s dramatic. More like against myself. I don’t like that every time I get together with a friend, it consists of “I haven’t seen you in forever! Let’s catch up on everything that has happened in our lives.” I can honestly say that I have never spent so much time talking about my daily life to so many people (because they asked, not because I accosted them). And these are people who I see at least every other day.

Note for all the people reading this back home: I’m not referring about you, since I don’t see you on a regular basis :).

 I’m not blaming anyone for it, because it is just what happens here at my college. But I’ve decided to focus on having more experiences with people – doing things and not just “catching up.” I’ve stopped stressing out about not hanging out with the 384,738,974 people that I am friends/acquaintances/we’re-facebook-friends-and-I-feel-guilty-that-we-don’t-hang-out-in-real-life/I’m-good-friends-with-your-good-friend-so-we-feel-obligated-to-hang-out with. Yes, we’re called to love everyone, but that doesn’t mean that we need to hang out with everyone we know weekly. I want to be a good friend. And I can’t do that if I can’t regularly keep up with those closest to me. 

Here is what I’ve decided:

  • I refuse to say or be pressured into returning the cliché phrase: “I haven’t seen you in forever! We should hang out sometime” as a fall back to the end of a conversation with someone whom I have no intention of following up. I’m done with guilt trips and I hate being insincere.
  • I will not text when I am hanging out/talking to people. I think this is one of the more rude things to do to the people you are with. When someone is [consistently] texting when they are hanging out with me, it signals to me that they seem bored and not interested in our time together. I will admit that I do this as well, so I am going to be working on it. If I absolutely have to text, (which, really, is it a life or death situation?), I will tell my friend who I am talking to “I’m sorry, I have to tell X that Y” so that they will know it is purely information passing and I’m not just having a conversation consists of “hey, wat up.” “nuthin” “cool” with someone else. I feel like sometimes we give higher priority to our friends who are not in front of us (those we text or face book) than those who are having a face to face conversation with. 
  • Instead of always getting together for coffee, I will make a conscious effort to plan fun things to do together and get groups of people together, because it’s more fun with more people! More people = more potential fun/potentially hilarious awkward experiences. {Side note: other goal: become more outgoing in groups}. This way, we are experiencing life and not just talking about the past.

Also, for clarification, I am not opposed to coffee or lunch dates, but if is the only time that you see that person, every two three weeks is it really a strong, healthy relationship? I like having a regular, weekly friend date with certain people so we know we have a set time to hang out, because life can get busy!

 

La Vita Bella. Invest in your friends, because they deserve it and you grow so much from what they have to give you. 

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No Expectations

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We’ve all had those days, I’m sure of it. The days where you go to work or walk to your classes and feel completely invisible. You don’t see anyone you know, or the people you do know don’t see you. You start the day with a feeling of loneliness that is hard to shake. And then you get frustrated. Or maybe that was just me last week. I wonder, “Gosh, if I didn’t go out of my way to say hi to people or initiate coffee dates I probably would never see anyone.”

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From experience, I’m just going to tell you that that is a dangerous path to go down and completely petty. It really is. Looking at some of my vices I realize how petty they are and I think, “I thought I was doing a good job on this whole ‘path to sainthood’ thing and I get caught in the same silly rut and make the same mistake over and over again.” This can spiral very quickly into self-pity and discouragement. I’ve definitely been there. And I’ve realized that it is easier for me to believe that God has forgiven my sins than in not being angry at myself for falling prey to the same temptations.

I think sometimes, as a young, single women, loneliness can be a big struggle. And it’s easy to fall into the habit of wishing for some person to have an intimate connection with, someone completely devoted to you. I went to a talk at my college given by Leah Darrow, a former contestant for America’s Next Top Model who had a sudden conversion experience. She told us a story of her first date with her now husband where she asked him what he wanted. {Leah told us what he said, but at first no one I was sitting by could hear her, so we were all asking each other. We thought he had said either, “I don’t completely know” or “I feel completely numb”}

It turns out he had said, “I want to be completely known.” That really struck me, because I think it’s something that everyone desires, and it is exactly what I want. Someone understanding, someone who cares about me and is always inquisitive about my life, someone who sees something special in me, and someone whom I feel completely secure with. I was thinking about this in prayer the other day, and I realized that I already have that. Christ fulfills all of these hopes of mine better than any person ever could. But sometimes, even when I recognize it, I have a hard time believing it. Because society tells us that all of those things will be filled and can only be filled by a romantic relationship. However I refuse to believe the lies that the world tells us and I’m positive that there are moments, sometimes many moments, in dating relationships and marriages in which one person feels lonely. We can’t expect our spouse or future spouse to fulfill our every hope and desire because they are human too, and inevitably he will fail, and I will fail. I’m not saying marriage isn’t without its immense joy, but it’s important to not take the other person for granted. 

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Right now and always, I have Christ. He doesn’t simply satisfy me, but He fills me to overflowing. I will go out of my way to love people, without expecting anything in return. I will do it by being the first one to say “hello” and the first one to reach out and ask someone to hang out. And I know other people are just as unsure as I am. But I am confident that the best way to receive love is to give love. And I am confident and secure in the fact that God made me and He knows me to the depths of my soul and wants to spend every single moment with me. And that is all that I need.

“Love is desiring the greatest good for the beloved”

~St. Thomas Aquinas

The Right Amount of Change

Leaves change. And I like it! It's so pretty! Why do I worry about change in my own life?

Leaves change. And I like it! It’s so pretty! Why do I worry about change in my own life?

If I’m going to be completely honest, I absolutely hate change, I do. I wish things could stay the same way they’ve always been. Although, confronted in person, I’m sure that I will claim to be adaptable to any and all circumstances. Ha. But don’t worry, I am fully aware that this is a major character flaw. And I’m working on it. Slowly. One of my New Year’s hopes (not exactly a resolution, because it isn’t really possible to measure) is to like change. My problem is that even if different aspects in my life are mediocre, I am still hesitant to make a huge change, because I am comfortable where I am. Just with the coining of the phrase “comfort zone” it is self explanatory why people have such a hard time getting out of it. It’s comfortable. I like comfort. Who doesn’t? Who wants to feel uncomfortable, awkward, and out of place? Strange people. But I’m sure they’re out there. In fact, I’m trying to become one myself! Why? Because I refuse to accept mediocrity for my life. As much as I assume this fact when I get mad that we ran out of creamer at our house: Life is not geared towards our own comfort and pleasure.

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable.

But we were not created for comfort, but for greatness.

-Pope Benedict XVI

I had a discussion with someone about this, and they were mildly depressed after I said that, because she wondered if life was about giving up all joys then. No, life isn’t about pleasure, but it is not all about sacrifice either. The importance in life is love. Loving and being loved. This comes with both pleasure and sacrifice. And it requires the loss of our comfort sometimes.

Even though my “resolution hope” to like change is, in my own humble opinion, quite admirable, it is obviously easier said than done.

A dangerous habit I can get into...

A dangerous habit I can get into…

Thankfully, God knows our hearts and he can gently point us along the way or just plain shove us off the mountain of our own stable routine to land (in my case) mostly likely in a belly flop into the waters of growth. I know this picture depicts a graceful person practically floating peacefully into that change, but let’s be honest. That would not be me. I like clinging to things that are normal and acknowledging my need to change but not actually taking that step so God, in all His loving goodness, gives me a hand.

He has definitely given me a hand this semester. My last three semester have been pretty easy academically. They were not very stressful and I didn’t have to get out of my comfort zone to be in any of the classes. That was shattered in about 2 seconds the night before my spring semester started less than a week ago. I had been having a particularly stressful and busy day with moving rooms, getting ready for starting school, trying to adjust to being back in 50 degree weather (okay, that wasn’t too hard…) and being in meetings for most of my day. During a short dinner break I had, where I forgot to eat because I conveniently learned that hyperventilating does a good job of substituting for food, I got an e-mail saying one of my classes was canceled, and I realized that I needed another terrible sounding class to actually be able to graduate with a business minor.  To spare you the long story I went through a period of denial, stress, and finally a flimsy decision to give up my business minor because I decided in 2 seconds that I didn’t really want it anymore. Thankfully that passed quickly because of the wisdom that my Dad (and really all dads) are renowned for.

Well, I don’t typically like to start of my semester with tears and a heart attack, but it really kick started my adrenaline for the week. After I attended all of my classes, I sat back, overwhelmed and thinking, “I don’t like any of my classes.” Most of them are going to be really challenging and require a lot of participation and study. And then I decided. My motto for this semester, which I admit, I’m not incredibly overjoyed at, is:

Dandelion Seeds ca. 1990s

I want to be challenged in my classes and be able to converse easily and well in class discussion (something very difficult for me) and get to the point where I don’t dread for an entire semester a presentation I have. But I always think of those things as attributes that my future self will be good at. And then, reading the Simple Dollar blog, I made the realization that my future self is non-existant. My future self is not good at giving speeches or skilled at quickly adapting to circumstances. I must work with who I am right now, because that is all I have. God definitely is going to help me with change this semester, as so much change in social and academic circumstances continue to present themselves to me. And I’m okay with them. It reminds me even more that I can trust in God to be a strong foundation for me, a solid rock that is unshakeable. I only operate under the illusion that the things in life that I take for granted will be there forever. It is when this illusion is shattered that I can better trust in Christ and experience tremendous growth.

You know, feelings aren’t everything. In fact, in many circumstances they can hinder us instead of help us. Maybe I might never “like” change, but I resolve to get to the point where I will change without a fight.

And as a continuation of my “Precarious Balance” post, I will most likely only be blogging about once a week because of my newly hectic schedule. Because, unlike a majority of my fellow college students, I require sleep to function.

A Precarious Balance

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I’m a junior in college and life is pretty crazy. I’m certain that once I graduate, life will be even more hectic. There are so many events to attend and classes to stay awake in (which I do) and homework to finish and people to catch up with. And not to mention making sure I have daily prayer time. While I can’t claim that I have five kids, a husband, and a household to take care of, I still have my fair share of things to accomplish. How in the world are we supposed to balance our commitments, obligations, and the things we want to do?

I would love to say that I lead an incredibly balanced lifestyle with enough time in the day to accomplish everything on my to-do list in regards to my health, academic, social, and spiritual life.

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You know, I can easily believe that she can do that pose. But my question is…How the heck is she still smiling?

But I’m confident that the people reading this would most likely roll their eyes and read some other blog not written by a liar. 

No, I will willingly admit that I fail, sometimes daily, at leading a perfectly balanced life. Most days, I feel more like this elephant:

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Quite the precarious balance…

 

I know that a common view to have is the “I just don’t have enough time in the day!” Some people wish that we had 30 hours in the day instead of 24. I say, no way would I want that. That’s six more hours where I’ll most likely feel guilty about not using the time well, or running around busier than ever. God gave us the perfect amount of time. If we don’t get everything accomplished that we would like, that is just fine. It’s really not a sin to not finish everything on your to-do list. God doesn’t look down on you for it, or look at you like you’re a disappointment to Him because you didn’t make a gourmet dinner. It is ourselves who get frustrated at our own perceived failure. It is because I see accomplishing all of these things as a type of success, but I forget that I’m not on this earth to be personally successful. I am here to love. To love God and love those around me. 

Leading a balanced life is something that I believe I’ll be learning all my life. But it is so fruitful to have a good grip on it as early as possible, especially in college, which is such a hectic environment. Like I’ve said in previous posts, sticking to a rigid schedule isn’t a good thing, but making sure you have time to get in exercise, the homework that is most pressing, and having a good, long chat with God, without ignoring all other people is essential. From here on out, life will probably only get busier. There will be many things to do, see, accomplish, and try. There will be people to meet, love, laugh with, and say goodbye to. If you are balanced in your own life, it radiates out to other people. If you look like you’re busy all the time, it is not a welcoming sign to strangers or even friends. I want people to feel peaceful in my presence and feel like my attention is focused solely on them, not the person I’m trying to text just to tell them some “important” detail. But if you don’t lead a balanced life or even have some type of schedule, on the other end of the spectrum, it breeds slothfulness. We need a certain amount of self-discipline in our daily lives, or we will get too content with comfort.

I think that the most important way to have a balanced life is to remember that God, and the nurturing of your spiritual life is not simply an area of your life to be checked off a to-do list every day. It should be all encompassing, and should spill over to all areas of your life. Maybe I don’t have 25 minutes everyday to sit quietly to contemplate all of the incredible blessings that God has given me, but I do have ten minutes in the shower to have a conversation with Him about the upcoming day and time for a quick stop in the Adoration chapel on my way to class. This isn’t to say that we should never set aside time specifically for Christ, but He should be in every area of our life, not just be one area of our life. If that happens, we will feel more satisfied and peaceful. And with that, we will have more strength to carry out our other tasks well. We can try to lead a balanced life without God, but it will most definitely be a struggle. It will come with frustration, greed, and exhaustion. But God is a generous giver. In Psalm 127:2 it says,

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

I love that verse. “He gives to His beloved sleep.” We are His beloved, and to Him, we aren’t failures. He has given us rest and relaxation to use, not to reject for more “successful” pursuits. Sometimes discouragement can be the biggest obstacle for me to overcome to get what I need to done. I need to remember that His love overshadows every other thing, including my disappointment in myself. 

So, lead a balanced life as best you can. What helps me is getting things done in the morning. 

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It’s funny how true this really is.

If I plan for my time to exercise and pray the rosary in the morning, chances are it will get done more easily than if I had planned for afternoon. Let’s be honest, I’m a college student, but I’m also a morning person. So it is more beneficial to wake up early and get things done so I have more free time in the afternoons. That is when people are actually awake around campus, and I have time for an unexpectedly long conversation with a friend, or meeting a stranger without worrying about my homework for the next day, because it is already done. 

Our day to day activities are crazy some days, but embrace them as a challenge. If God is your first priority, then everything else will fall into place. We’ll find time to get our room cleaned, eat healthy, get a good amount of sleep, and go to confession like we’ve been meaning to for the past month. If we let God be in command of our daily lives, exhaustion won’t claim us. We will be able to love and serve and lead a balanced life.

 

The Attainment of “World Peace”

You hear at every beauty pageant across the world the question being posed: “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” And the answer invariably is: “World Peace.”

Personally, I like Sandra Bullock’s response in the movie Miss Congeniality, “harsher punishment for parole violators.” But I guess I’m practical like that.

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It’s amazing the *ahem* ridiculous images you get if you google “world peace.” Like this one for example.

Now, “world peace” is something that I believe all societies are, or should be, actively striving for. It is in the prayers of many people. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually prayed for world peace. It’s not that I don’t want it, but it’s always been too much of a vague concept for me. What is “world peace”? What does it look like?

Thankfully Google always has an answer, and it is usually an answer that reflects society’s views. Google’s definition of world peace is:

“An ideal of freedom, peace, and happiness

among and within all nations and/or peoples”

That’s quite the ideal to live up to, if you ask me. That sounds a lot closer to Heaven than it does for a group of fallen human beings. After all, we are all hopelessly flawed. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should not actively try to make our world a better place, because I believe we can and we should. But to reduce our wish to “world peace” seems trite. Unfortunately, there will always be bad people in the world. What can we do to stop all the evil in the world? It seems like a big job, too big for any one person to attain. That’s why we should break it down a little. Instead of just one person staring at the problem of ridding the world of all violence, we should look at ourselves first. I mean, Bruce Willis or Batman probably could, but let’s face it, not all of us are that intimidating.

Because it is Christmas, and don’t even get me started on how much I adore the Christmas season, we have definitely heard a lot of Christmas songs. One that really hit me this season had a line that said, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Clearly Christ wants us to pray and actively strive for peace, but we should have peace in and with ourselves before looking to the world-wide picture.

One thing that I love about my faith is that even when every single thing is going wrong, and trust me, it does about twice a week, I can still have peace. If you’re surrounded with five kids screaming at you because one is hungry, one is mad, the other is happy, and two just want to join in, you can still be peaceful. It goes back to the knowledge of who you are. You are a child of God, and that’s important. I don’t like cliches, but there’s no real way to get around saying that. Think about what that means. You’re not like a child of God, you are a child of God. It means we are smaller than Him and infinitely less wise. It means He knows better than us on how we should live, and we would all do better to listen to Him.

Since I’ve gotten my license years ago, I’ve gotten lost a fair amount of times. Most times they are conveniently someplace sketchy. I usually freak out, silently if there are other people in the car, until I find my way again. The same thing occurs if I happen to be home alone for a night. I’ll hear a little noise and become convinced that there is someone out there lurking about our house. Now, when I was younger and my parents were always around to take care of me and drive me anywhere, I never had these concerns. If my parents got lost driving somewhere, I had no worries that I wasn’t still safe and that they would get me to where we were going. At night, whenever I heard a noise and they were just across the hall, I would simply regard it as an inconvenience that woke me up. I wasn’t worried.

Sometimes I think back to those times and see how young and innocent I was, realizing now how much more I know about the world than I did then (not that I would consider myself an expert on it by any means.) But I’m beginning to think that is not necessarily a good thing. Yes, I’m more aware of things that go on in the world, but I’ve lost my ability to wholeheartedly trust that everything will always work out and how useless it is to worry and be anxious.

But the thing is, we don’t have to be worried or anxious. We have the ability to trust fully in God knowing that “everything will work out for the good of those who love Him.” That’s quite a promise. Why don’t we believe it? I think it’s because we get ahead of ourselves many times. Or rather get ahead of God. I know too many times I trust in myself that I’ll get things done and I’ll look up and I’ll realize that somewhere along the way, I became filled with fear and anxiety.

We need to step back and realize that our security is in Christ. I don’t know about you, but that’s something that I would always love to have, the full assurance of security. And I do have it all the time, but sometimes I’m too focused on myself or my fear to remember that. It’s a security that doesn’t tell us we will never be ill or wounded emotionally or physically, but one that tells us that in the end, when it really matters, we will be just fine. 100 years in this life is a millisecond to the eternal one that is coming for us, whether we are ready or not. And in that life, if we believe and follow God’s will, there will be no war, no stress, no anxiety, no spiderwebs that you can unexpectedly walk into, and no lack of hot water for bubble baths. It will be glorious. Not because of all those wonderful perks, but because of the reason we are there: Complete love of Christ.

I’m human, and I’m a girl, so usually I freak out about a situation that comes up suddenly in which I have no control over. It can happen anywhere from 2-463739 times a day. First of all, it reminds me of my own weakness. And I remember that God is not up there freaking out with me saying, “Agh! I can’t believe her tire went flat on the highway! I didn’t even see that one coming! One minute she was driving, and then bam! Hit a nail. Shoot.” If that was our God, I might be concerned. But it most certainly is not. He knows us even better than we know ourselves and he knows what will happen to us.

C.S. Lewis warned us about the dangers of living in the future, and honestly, I believe that is a huge reason why we struggle with a loss of peace. Living in the future is most dangerous because it has never happened, and the “future” never will. We will always be in the present, and we can’t control what happens in future events. Mark Twain wrote, “I have known a great many dangers in my lifetime, and most of them have never happened.” How true that is. How many times have I worried about a presentation at school for so long and then by an act of God, the teacher decides not to even include the presentation in their course. And I wasted all that time worrying.

So keep God’s peace, because He’s giving it for you to have at all times. Don’t live in the future but trust in the security Christ is for us. In this way, we will be able to have peace in our hearts and then we can spread it to others. How you say? By living it out in our own lives, people can’t help but notice and want to emulate.

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It’s this same concept, except with happiness instead of grumpiness. But I couldn’t resist.