The Desire for Thanksgiving

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I love this image of Mary Magdalene from the Passion.

I was having prayer time this morning (which is beautiful by the way, looking out my windows onto the snowy landscape) and I came across this verse:

He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me;

To him who orders his way aright

I will show the salvation of God.

~Psalm 50:23

This struck me because of how it points out that Christ asks us to praise Him in all circumstances, not simply when we are thanking Him for a blessing He has given us. He wants us to give thanks as a sacrifice. Sometimes, praising God for what He has done in our lives is painful. 

Sure, I can be joyful today and praise Him in thanksgiving because my morning classes were canceled (again!) and I now have freedom to finish some more homework, study for tests, and take an extra long, relaxing time enjoying my coffee with my new toffee almond creamer. *Side note: I feel like I mention coffee a lot. The only reason for this is because I usually write these in the mornings when I am enjoying it. I’m not an addict. Yet.

Of course God is delighted when I thank Him for these beautiful blessings, but how often do I come to Him in a spirit of thanksgiving when things are going terribly wrong, as they often do a few times a year month day. Have we ever thought about thanking Him for the inconveniences, the accidents, and the painful things that happen to us throughout the day? Do we thank Him for unexpected interruptions in our schedule by a person we have a hard time loving or because we never grew up with dishwashers and didn’t know you shouldn’t put in regular dish soap into the dishwasher and now have soap suds covering the entirety of your kitchen floor? Oh yeah, me neither.

I will admit, it does come to mind and then I usually dismiss it in my selfishness and instead get frustrated. Which helps nothing. At the time I usually rationalize it to myself in my petty pity party which I like to fall into.

I also don’t think to thank Him for my own weaknesses. Think about it: God gives us our talents and gifts, but we also have weaknesses that we are called to work on, and these weaknesses, if we are open and docile to the Holy Spirit, will bring us in deeper communion with Christ.

I’m reading this amazing book called Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The secret of peace and happiness and basically it spells out the key to our happiness which is aligning our desires with His. This morning I read this great part:

Poverty serves to keep you humble while your nature is proud;

The scorn of the world to free you from your attachment to it;

Illness to keep you from the pleasure-seeking which would be your ruin.

Yes, I can thank the Lord for my embarrassing lack of athletic talent and how I don’t have a body like Tanya from Insanity because it keeps me humble. I can thank the Lord that I’m not the most popular person at my school because it allows me to remember that I’m not seeking success as my ultimate goal but I’m seeking Heaven.

A practical way to carry this out I’ve found is to listen to the Litany of Humility by Danielle Rose in the mornings when I’m getting ready. It helps me to stay centered and grounded in truth (Especially the “Deliver me from the desire of being appreciated and preferred” part).

Another odd little way I’ve carried this out was inspired by Facebook. A friend posted one day “All the bananas – praise the Lord. All the computers – praise the Lord.” I thought this was hilarious and my housemate and I have started saying this about things that we don’t like. For example, we have this death march every day called the “raven walk + a class in St. Ben’s” which contains a grand total of 345345 stairs, which never get any easier to walk up no matter how much Insanity I do. So we will say, usually with gritted teeth: “All the stairs – praise the Lord.” And it reminds me that Christ is good and He gives us all good things for a reason. It also usually makes me giggle which brings up my mood as well!

Enjoy your day today and remember to give God thanksgiving for all He has done, because He knows us and what we need better than we ever could know ourselves.

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Because this is absolutely adorable. Happy Tuesday.

 

Touches of Beauty

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Today is turning out to be an absolutely delightful day. Not only is it nearing the end of an incredibly blessed week, but we received a (slightly expected, much prayed for) snow day! It was so fun to see the absolute pure happiness on all of our faces at our house this morning when we got the text. “Giddy” would definitely be an appropriate word to describe us, along with a majority of this campus.

I’m sure God delighted in the rejoicing hearts of those college students who braved the snow to go to Mass this morning. I realized walking back from Mass how beautiful it was to see how quiet our little corner of the world is. All of our busy-ness has stopped for the moment and we are blessed with the gift of time: to relax, to catch up on homework, to rid ourselves of stress, and to rejoice in God who gives all good things.

Sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee, I decided to share a few things from my life in the past few weeks that have made me happy. Little touches of beauty throughout my daily life that make me stop and thank God for his pure and perfect knowledge of me and what delights me.

1. Valentine’s Day

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Valentine cards can be so creative – I love how unique each one is!

On the risk of being called a hippie (ahem…you know who you are) I’ve decided I absolutely love Valentine’s Day. Yes, a single woman loves this holiday. I also do not like how it is assumed, and even encouraged, that if you aren’t in a relationship then you probably will spend this holiday drowning your sorrows in chocolate chip cookie dough and talking with your other single lady friends about how stupid men are. Don’t get me wrong, I would be fine with the cookie dough part (aside from the fact that it is Lent…) but I think men are pretty fantastic, and there are so many other types of love aside from romantic love that we can celebrate on this day.

Also, later in the evening my housemates and I were sitting around the kitchen table doing homework when we heard men shouting and a drum and guitar…Outside our house. Yes, about 12 men of the SPO houses were outside, with roses, and waited for us to open the door and proceeded to serenade us with their rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Brownie points for them!

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The ladies of the other SPO house left us a surprise on our porch – hand sewn owls that you can stick in the microwave to warm up!

2. Creme Petite – authentic Brie with Wheat Thins

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This is the swiss cheese wedges, but they are just as good as the brie ones!

It’s really the simple things in life that add up, like this new snack that I have a newfound love for! They are tasty, healthy-ish, and they come in cute little wedges! I’m pretty sure the dang packaging is what draws me to these. Marketing people really know their stuff.

3. The Temptations, Lone Bellow, and Little Women Soundtrack

Music can really speak straight to the heart, or even express what your heart can not. For me, there are some songs that I could listen to over and over again, and I do (ask my housemates…). The song, “My Girl” by the Temptations is one song that never fails to make me happy, even if I’m in the worst of moods. It is also the song that my friend and I decided to spontaneously sing at karaoke while we were at a restaurant. I have a clip of it, but I’m sure that you wouldn’t be interested in it ;). A friend recently introduced me to The Lone Bellow, and I fell in love! They are a great band which you should check out if you get the chance. And of course the Little Women soundtrack, which keeps me company while studying – such beautiful instrumental music!

4. Cute Baby Animals

On risk of judgement, I had to include this. Those who know me know that I would not be considered an animal lover, but Pinterest has come up with way too many cute animals for me not to take delight in them.

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Exhibit A. This baby koala fits in a coffee cup. A COFFEE CUP!

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Exhibit B. This one needs no explanation. What a fine piece of art.

5. Daily Odd Compliment

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Have you been on this website? Because it is hilarious. And I love it. I feel like so many of them are applicable to so many of my friendships. While we’re on the subject of friendships, can I say how blessed I am to have such incredible friends? In all honesty, I have a beautiful, loving, quirky family at home, I have the most wonderful friends as well back in Minnesota that I would absolutely consider family, and I have friends here, in Kansas where we have formed another family. I would consider my friendships with all of these people inherently life-giving; each and every one is a blessing in my life. As a dear friend told me once, “you make my heart content.” What can I not conquer when I have Christ and these amazing people by my side? Nothing. Except maybe my impending Accounting homework.

Delightfully Feminine

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“I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they are the first to be rescued off of sinking ships” -Gilda Radner

Last week I was meeting my business advisor to talk about classes, and I overheard part of a conversation in the hallway. Some guy was responding to something his friend (who was a girl) said, and replied “Haha, really? That is so girly.” The tone of his voice was so negative. I have a question for you. When did it become a bad thing to be feminine? I was having a conversation with a friend and I had mentioned my hairstylist after which I immediately said, “that sounds so girly,” essentially apologizing for having a hairstylist. I do it too! I feel like I do my best to tone down my feminine qualities so they aren’t noticeable, because I feel like society has attacked the idea of being “feminine.” Society has done its best to sweep womanly influences under the rug and now if you are “too girly” you become an image of the stereotypical “dumb blonde.”

Now many girls feel pressured to take on masculine qualities in order to “attract” men. We feel like we have to be athletic, even if we don’t like sports, we should know what kind of car we want, down to the make and the model, and know the rules of football to get a guy to notice us. I’m not saying that girls can’t like sports or cars and I’m not saying that men never fall for women who are 100% “girly.” I’m saying that society is telling us that all women should stop their “girly” behavior and become more assimilated to men. I know personally when I was growing up, the girls who were noticed by guys were good at playing football and dodgeball. And so, in spite of being the extremely self-conscious 13 year old girl that I was who didn’t have an affinity for anything that involved moving balls and the application of my reflexes, I  played them anyways. It took me being hit in the head with a football by my star quarterback of a crush who was simply trying to include me in the game, even though I happened to not be paying attention, to realize that that simply wasn’t me. And that is fine.

Society sends the message that being overtly feminine is wrong. I admit, there is a stigma of being “too girly,” and even I tend to shy away from more peppy, bubbly characters. We are women, but we don’t have a free pass to talk non-stop about boys and  nail polish. This stigma that society has for feminine qualities comes from the vices that women are more inclined to rather than the virtues. Women are meant to be loving which can turn into a vice of being clingy. We have a talent for hospitality, but that can turn into the vice of exclusivity and gossip. We also have a deep appreciation for beauty and details, which can be turned into vanity. All of these beautiful attributes that God naturally gives to women can be distorted by the devil and turned into vice. The same can be said of men.

But because of the feminist movement, society has focused on women’s vices and rejected their virtues. Vulnerability is a quality that should be nurtured in both genders, but is more natural, I believe, for women In today’s world, it is not considered a good thing to be vulnerable. I don’t believe that. Opening yourself up to be vulnerable leads to great humility and to the gift of connecting and relating to other people. If you refuse to be vulnerable to anyone, it sends a message that you don’t have weaknesses and that you are stronger than others. It can also be a form of pride not to share what you are struggling with. It is a lot harder to relate to that person than it is to someone who admits they have weaknesses.

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And if you are or know any women, you know we love relating. All the time. For a long time. And mainly in the form of sleepovers. Myself and the women that I live with had a sleepover the other weekend, even though we live in the same house! Also at our house there is never a lack of chocolate, in any form.

Let's just be honest.

Let’s just be honest.

Men and women are different. It might seem pretty obvious, but society has been attempting to undermine that basic truth and replace it with this: men and women are equal, therefore they are the same. I recently read an article saying that the army has started allowing women into combat battalions. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that President Obama made a comment saying, “Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love.”

Am I the only one that feels weird about the statement? Now I’m supposed to be happy that our moms, sisters, and goddaughters can fight for us. Don’t men go to war in order for their families, their wives and sisters, to be protected? If men have nothing to protect, they will have nothing to fight for.

While I do believe in equality and I’m happy that we as women have the right to vote and have careers, the logic of that statement that men and women are the same does not make sense. I’m going to pull out a math reference.

Okay, here it is.

3+7=14-4

Yes, I know you’re now all thoroughly impressed by my math skills.

The point of this, besides showing that I can apply Quantitative Analysis in Business Data (a class I am taking) to my life, is that both sides of the equation equal 10. But how they both got to 10 was a different way, with different numbers. In this way men and women are different – they are both equal, but the way their minds work, the attributes that are uniquely theirs differ from each other.

Please, rejoice in the unique femininity of women and all the quirks that come with it, like believing that chocolate most likely has healing powers and the weird phenomenon of women needing to go to the bathroom together. If you’re a woman, use the characteristics that God has given us and turn them into virtues instead of vices.

Women seek naturally to embrace what is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, and advance growth is for natural maternal yearning. Lifeless matter, the fact, interests her first of all insofar as it serves the living and the personal, not ordinarily for its own sake" -Edith Stein

Women seek naturally to embrace what is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, and advance growth is for natural maternal yearning. Lifeless matter, the fact, interests her first of all insofar as it serves the living and the personal, not ordinarily for its own sake” -Edith Stein

 

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.

A Liberating Choice

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It is New Year’s Eve, so I figured that a post about resolutions would be appropriate. And besides, if you haven’t already picked up on it, I like goals. I think that they are a wonderful way to accomplish the things you want in life. They can keep you from spending time needlessly doing things that you really don’t plan on doing. I mean honestly, did I really want to spend an entire hour on Facebook when I had just gotten on the internet to check my e-mail?

Although, on the other end of the spectrum, I don’t want to make so many goals that it becomes all I focus on.

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I don’t want to be like this kid…

We have to be careful about how we use goals. It’s a warning sign if you’re making goals because you think you are not enough – not popular enough, not successful enough. That is not the point of them. The point is liberation. Practical life goals, like starting to invest or signing up for that photography class you’ve always wanted are meant to be freeing. The purpose of our goals should be to give us more freedom, not to weigh us down. Having a schedule that you stick to rigidly leaves no room for an unexpected conversation with a friend, helping out a stranger, or a well-deserved bubble bath. Goals are good, but if we forget our primary vocation: to love – love God and love others – they mean nothing.

Don’t get too excited. I’m not saying that we should just throw schedules out the windows.

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Scheduling and making goals in the right way will give you freedom to love others and also allow you to relax and be refreshed. We don’t need to “plan” the spontaneous fun out of life. But for myself, I need a set time to go work out or spend time in Adoration or else I won’t do it. We are able to acquire virtues like generosity or temperance by making them a habit. You could also consciously strive to acquire humility as well, but if you’re like me, tripping over your own feet suffices quite well and quite often…

As I had mentioned in my previous post about the connection of being a person of action and happiness, I happened to find a great quote from Benjamin Disraeli:

“Action may not always bring happiness;

but there is no happiness without action.”

So, if you are excited about the new year and are writing out the goals you want to accomplish, I have heard and read a lot of advice about making goals, and here are a few ideas that I have found the most helpful. 1.) Prayer is an important step to discerning what goals are worth working towards. 2.) The purpose of goals are not to one-up other people or compete with your personal view of their success. 3.) Look for making resolutions that don’t lose importance to you with the absence of other people. 4.) Do a regular review of your goal progress. I’ve found that it is equally as important as making a plan for your resolution. I have a tendency to work towards my goal but not review them and then realize that 3 months went by without any significant progress.

Today, New Year’s Eve, is a day to prepare for new beginnings. With that comes memories of the year before, the new friends we’ve met, the embarrassing stories we add to the list of never mentioning again, and the excitement of a new semester (minus the pain of paying for new books…)

Have a fun New Year’s Eve!

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Maybe I’ll make a New Year’s resolution to become more crafty! Here is my first step: Making centerpieces for a New Year’s Eve engagement party my sisters and I are hosting for a good friend. Wine bottles, to be filled with sprigs of glittery crafty-ness, accompanied by wine glass candle holders. Surprisingly easy!