Monday, February 8, 2016

On Chapel Veils and Why I'm Not a Feminist

I have a confession to make. 

Today, my first chapel veil arrived in the mail. You know, the one I said I’d never wear – that thing I never understood. 

I’ve had all sorts of reasons for not wearing one…
          …men don’t have to wear them, why should women?
          …St. Paul wasn’t teaching about something that was meant to apply to every generation
          …all it does is draw attention to yourself and make you feel superior
          …Jesus doesn’t care what I look like at Mass, certainly not what is or isn’t on my head, He’s just glad I’m there

So, why did I spend time searching online for a veil I like?

I blame Jesus.

When our Lord was speaking to St. Theresa of Avila, He asked her if she knew who He was. He then told her, “I am He who is; you are she who is not.”

“…she who is not.”

As I began to let those words sink in and be present within my soul, I began approaching the Lord differently. As I considered the immensity of His mercy and love, a profound sense of smallness grew within me. It isn’t that I began feeling weak or irrelevant; rather, I simply became more aware that before the greatness of God Himself I am smaller than the smallest thing known.

Out of that humility, grace began to grow. Sts. Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross emphasize humility as the human quality that calls down grace most effectively. And as that grace continued to reveal the ways I’m attached to this world, my desire for greater humility increased.

I noticed it especially at Mass. When it would come time to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, the humility and smallness that my soul experienced before Him seemed to beg outward expression.

I bought a chapel veil because I want my exterior to be a reflection of the interior disposition God has created within me: lowly and small.

“Have this in mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” –Philippians 2:5-8

Alongside this interior change I began to see the world around me differently. The feminist agenda has created a culture wherein women are entitled to everything. If something so much as hints at the difference between male and female it is portrayed as dangerous to women. The slightest indication of the notion of submission or dependence is utterly (and loudly) rejected.

We have been trained to pursue power, equality, and control at all costs. (And that cost is usually the disablement of masculinity.) From military officials supporting the draft for females, to CDC warnings about alcohol and pregnancy, to anti-abortion articles rallying for the superiority of women who can both be productive citizens AND birth children (which men cannot do), we live in a culture today that screams at you to increase yourself and reject anything that remotely carries a trace of the instructions our Lord has made quite clear: humble yourself, submit yourself, and “you are she who is not.”

Here’s the part that we tend to ignore: when women behave from a place of humility (when we admit that we are not men, that we do not deserve power over them or at their expense), we shift a lot of responsibility onto men.

Have you ever stopped to think that maybe if as women we allowed ourselves to be cared for, if we allowed ourselves to need men to lead, guide, and provide for us, there would be men who rise to the occasion?

St. Paul instructs wives to be submissive to their husbands. He then instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church.

My capacity to receive the love that Christ has for His Church has increased greatly as my willingness to let go, to lean on Him, and dispose myself before Him in humility has increased.

So, women of the world, while I will not tell you to run out and buy a veil of your own (Side note: they are surprisingly expensive), I do offer this:

 - What if instead of seeking to make your voice louder, you sought to quiet yourself inside and listen?
- What if instead of pursuing equality (in our culture this means “the same”) with men, you laid down your weapons and let yourself be grateful for ways men can provide and protect?
- What if instead of focusing on getting ahead and proving yourself, you looked at the Lord in humility, presented Him with your life, and waited for Him to love you in the places where you are small?
- What if we all just admitted that the constant striving to be stronger and more powerful is actually exhausting and usually leaves us empty instead of happier?

Why do we have to be so opposed to the very disposition the Lord asks of us? Remember what Jesus said of the woman who put just two small coins into the Temple treasury?

“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.” – Mark 12:43
 She was not rich and powerful. She did not control the world around her. Instead, she simply submitted her life to God.

Females of the world: maybe that’s what we should do too.

(Now excuse me while I go practice standing, sitting, kneeling, walking, etc. in a veil…)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Peaceful Discernment

I sometimes feel like my spiritual life is lived out in two different realms.

In one I seek to know God as He is. I calm myself to encounter Him in prayer. I listen for His voice. I come to know His love by being present to Him.

In the other, things are much more chaotic. I strive to find His will in the things around me. I spend my days trying to make sense of all my experience so as to discover the answer to the ever-present question: Where do You want me to serve You?

It seems at first glance that there should be some way to bridge the gap - that I should be able to make His quiet Presence fill the hole left by the tireless questioning and seeking.

I'm reminded of Elijah waiting for God on the mountain. Elijah was wise enough to let the earthquake, strong wind, and fire pass him by without a care.  He knew the Lord was the still small voice.

And here's the thing: I do too. Do you know how I know that I know? Because I said it at the beginning of this post. (Remember? "In one I seek to know God as He is. I calm myself to encounter Him in prayer. I listen for His voice. I come to know His love by being present to Him.")

I look to the chaos to find the will of the Father. I beg for the earthquake, wind, and fire to reveal the still small voice. But the Lord was NOT in the wind. The Lord was NOT in the earthquake. The Lord was NOT in the fire.

I have to let go of the earthquake, wind, and fire.  I have to be wise enough to know that my desperate striving to make sense of my daily experience is fruitless striving.

The Lord can bring me answers, yes. (And I wait with great faith, hope, and trust that He will.) But I have to let the confusion and chaos pass by so that I'm still on the mountain when the still small voice speaks.

When I chase the questions, I miss the Answer.

And He said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  1 Kings 19: 11 - 13

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Word for 2014: Coach

My 2012 word was "courage." In 2012, I didn't re-sign my teaching contract, willingly entered into unemployment, moved out on my own for the first time, and moved to a city I'd spent little time in for a job teaching high school, which I had never taught before. It was a lot. And it was courageous.

After all of that, I wanted a word that was a bit calmer for 2013. I chose "wisdom." It is harder to trace the practical implications of that word, but I think the biggest lesson I learned is this. Wisdom doesn't mean seeing and understanding how each of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. It isn't having all of the answers. Instead, wisdom is often the quiet peace that comes with trusting the puzzle solving to God. Watching in gratitude as pieces fit together. Trusting that God is crafting the missing pieces perfectly. Wisdom.

This brings me to 2014. Coach.

I complained to a priest (via email) that I felt more like a bystander in life than a main character. I looked around me, reflected on scripture, and concluded that I wasn't moving forward enough. There was no glorious, obvious, or particularly noteworthy action.

Priest: God is using you even if you feel like a bystander ... you are probably a climbing hook (others hold on to you) or a mountain ranger (others get direction from you) 

Me: BUT don't I need to climb the mountain too????!!?

Priest: Don't climb, coach

I wasn't a huge fan of that exchange. However, I do think there was wisdom (it was 2013) to be found there.

I need to be content with the role God has in mind for me. I can see many places and moments in my life where the words of the priest ring true.

I've come to see that I waste of lot of time trying to be more than God seems to ask of me.  I want to be Katniss Everdeen, essential to a rebellion that will bring about necessary change. I want to be Nelson Mandela, bringing change to the face of a nation.

But what he calls me to is much quieter. It takes effort to see as fruitful. But it is in those quieter things that I find more peace. I'm not anxious about what is to come. I don't worry about what should come next.

I trust in the life God has placed before me.

" Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." -Philippians 2:3-8

Coach. Not climb.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

She Wonders

Last night I wrote on the last page of a journal I have used sporadically since college. As I flip back through the pages, I smile, laugh, tear up, shake my head, and remember. I remember the girl I was - the girl who expressed so much of her heart on those pages.

That girl is now five years older than the days of the first entries. In many ways she has lived moments she could never have guessed at. And today, she wonders.

She wonders if that girl would have been delighted to know the now.

She wonders if the wisdom of those days long gone has been well used on the journey.

She wonders if five years from now these moments being lived will make more sense, be seen more clearly.

And in the midst of all that wonder, she tries to muster up the courage and strength to surrender. To gather up all of the unfinished story-lines, the unfulfilled hopes, the undetected graces and to place them all into the hands of the Father.

She sits, slowly breathing in and out, and reflects on the life lived. She feels the hurts, delights in the joys, and guesses at the future.

She knows with certainty that she is loved by the God who does not need to guess at the meaning and the purpose.

She asks herself the question found in many forms throughout the pages of the journal she closes and sets back on the shelf.

Will she trust God?  Does she love him as he asks her to?  Does she trust that his grace is sufficient?

Is this life being lived for him?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Gain Nothing

"No," I said to no one in particular as I closed my Bible and set it on the floor.  ...Okay, maybe I was saying it to God...

"No," I said again, "I'm not interested in meditating on You loving and serving us."

Let me back up a minute.  Just before Lent started, I commited to a new method of praying with scripture. I made a list of the major "action" moments of Jesus' life from John's Gospel, and I've been working my way through the list.

Next up on the list: The Washing of the Disciples' Feet.

Now, back to the story...

I realized a couple of days ago that I'm really, totally, and completely kind of mad at God.  I feel like I've honestly given myself to Him.  I know I took a courageous leap of surrender by leaving my 2nd grade teaching job and coming to Springfield.  And even though I had no real expectations for what this journey would bring, I did expect that it would become something.

It doesn't seem like it has. I feel abandoned and forgotten.

This morning, I woke up to a text from a friend happily declaring that God is so good.  The text went on to describe the reasons why. I found myself thinking, "Of course. Because you aren't me, and God is willing to bring good things into your life."

Earlier this afternoon, I got a text from another friend asking for prayers.  My prayer was something along these lines: "God, please bring good things into _____'s life. Don't treat her the way You treat me. Let her be holy and HAPPY."

...did I mention that I'm kind of mad at God?

At one point, I even went so far as to let God know that I think He is taking advantage of the fact that He knows I won't walk away. This God thing - this faithful Catholic life thing- I'm all in.

Here's the truth of the matter though. We have to live the victory.

God does love me.  He does bring good things into my life. He doesn't do everything the way I would, but that is the biggest blessing He gives us.  Because He can see perfectly. His ways are best.

Does that suck sometimes?  Yes.  But only because we are human. 
Does it hurt like crazy sometimes? Yes.  But only because we are being made holy.
Does it look unreasonable and unfair sometimes? Yes.  But only because Satan is constantly clouding our vision.

Today, I'm standing at a crossroads.  I have a choice to make.  I can stand up, trust God to build the Kingdom with my suffering, and LIVE like I'm all in.  Or, I can continue about my life with my arms crossed in stubbornness, pretending like God owes me the life I envision for myself.

What do I want to do?  I want to be stubborn.  I want to wait and try to force God's hand.  I want to throw a mini-temper tantrum until He gives in.

But I gain nothing by holding on.

I gain nothing, but Satan wins.

I don't want to be someone who hands Satan a win.

So what am I going to do?

Well, first of all I'm going to pray that scripture I said no to this morning.  And I'm going to meditate on God made flesh kneeling before His Church -before me- and humbly and lovingly serving.

And I'm going to choose to trust that Jesus.  I will choose to trust that He is building.

Because I gain nothing by holding on.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Learning Lessons

My life doesn't always look the way I think it should. It doesn't always look the way I want it to.

January was a challenging month and a dramatic time to be inside my prayer life.  You see, God isn't giving me something that I thought He would give me.  And He isn't really telling me why He won't give it to me.

He doesn't have to.

But I really, really, really want Him to.

As I've journeyed through this time, I've asked Him a lot of questions.

I've fasted.

I've cried.

I've prayed novenas.

I've kicked and screamed at Heaven.

I've been to daily mass and to Reconciliation.

I've blamed Saints.

I've mediated on Scripture.

I've journaled and journaled and journaled.

I've tried praying through it; I've tried not thinking about it.

I've talked and talked about it.

I've read books. I've painted. I've rearranged furniture. I've made lesson plans. I've cleaned. I've graded papers. I've spent time listening to friends tell me about their lives.

No matter what I've done or intentionally not done, my soul has struggled and my heart has hurt.

I hate when people spill out their personal lives online. I also hate when bloggers are so vague that I'm left super curious about what is happening in their lives.  Here's to me finding a virtuous balance in this post...

There is a person in my life who has undoubtedly brought me closer to God. This person has been there for me in some hard moments and has made me laugh when I've least expected to laugh. The two of us have been through a lot together, and we've been in each others' lives through a lot of individual journeys.

Together, we've worked hard to serve God, argued about theological things, and tried to figure out God's will and how best we can love Him.

And over the years, throughout all of that, we've tried to find the place for each other in our lives.

It's been hard. It's looked like a lot of different things at a lot of different times.

January was all about me learning to accept, once again, that I still don't have it figured out.

What I've learned this time around though, is something that I hope I never forget. Because as so much of my life has been clouded by this confusion, one thing has become more clear, more real, and more present in my life.

God exists.  He is indescribably real and present.

Throughout this time, I've questioned a lot of things and run through countless scenarios. The only thing that has been constant is the reality of who God is.

Somehow, when I look at Him - really look at Him, all of the confusion and turmoil and frustration and absolute annoyance fade ... just enough for me to really know that God loves me.  And that the beauty and simplicity of who He is in my life, of who I am in His eyes, is more than enough to sustain me.

It doesn't take away all that I'm feeling inside.

It doesn't silence all the thoughts and possibilities running through my mind.

Do I like the way this situation looks now? I don't.
Do I understand why it is the way it is?  Do I understand what God is doing? No. Not at all.

But my point is, maybe that's how it's supposed to be right now.  Maybe I'm not in this place to learn a lesson in discernment or in God's ways.

Maybe I'm just supposed to be learning lessons in God.  Maybe I'm just supposed to learn that He is enough.  Not because my life is a perfectly wrapped package.  Not because I've finally found the instruction manual.  Just because He is a constant light. A consistent love. A never-ending source of grace and goodness.

Even when my world is not what I want it to be, when it would be so easy and so natural to just fall away, He is exactly what I need: the Source that sustains me.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


It's so easy to forget that this life is a journey - a journey with more meaning that we can't see than meaning that we can.

It's so easy to fall into comfortable. Safe. Familiar.

It's so easy to forget that God is constantly calling us to become more like Him.

Sometimes we need moments in our lives that are so unexpected, so unpredictable that they spin our world around and turn it upside down in the most perfect way - the way that shows us that God is working.  God is calling.

I came across a quote in my meditation recently: "We should not be surprised if, when we embrace obedience, we find the Cross."

As I've pondered that deeply in my heart, I've come to realize a temptation within myself to think that if I only manage to be obedient God will bring about the things that I want.  I find myself believing that nothing unexpected should come my way because I've been listening and obeying.

But, obedience often leads us to the Cross.  That's how it was for Jesus.

Here's the thing about the Cross. If we look at it through our own eyes, it looks like we've been defeated.  It looks like the end of what should have been a much longer, much better story.  But when we look at the Cross through the eyes of faith, we something so much more.  We see it as an unexpected beginning, a continuation of a story that has more meaning than we can see in any single given moment.

And that Cross?  It calls us to change.  It shakes us from our comfort, our safety, our familiar. It demands that we see love differently.  It demands that we see life differently.  It demands that we trust God's power and glory in the unexpected.

It's easy to forget that this life is a constant, meaningful, and ever-changing journey.  Easy to forget that is, until we arrive at the Cross.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pausing to Express


(September 24, 2012)

Outside my window...The air is FINALLY at that consistently cool point. My windows are open, and the taste of Fall makes my heart smile.  I find comfort and peace in gentle breezes.

I am thinking... that I need to write more.  My life always seems more fully lived when I'm consistently expressing myself through writing.

I am thankful for... the gift of the journey.  I'm not always patient along the road that leads to healing, growth, or peace, but I'm so thankful that such a road exists. I'm also thankful that God lets us have other people journey alongside us.

I am wearing... my flowing brown skirt, a pink shirt, no shoes, and straightened hair (at the request of my students who have been dying to see what it looks like straightened).

I am creating... routine...or playing with it a least. I'm good with the weekends, but I'm still not thrilled my mornings.

I am going... to go to bed early tonight.  I'm tired, and those juniors I have to teach tomorrow are a lot of work.

I am reading... so much about Church History and the New Testament that it almost feels like college again. Almost.

I am hoping... that somewhere in the midst of this time there are many things in my life that are pleasing to God.

I am hearing... cars driving by on a busy street.

Around the much talk about martyrs and persecution have left me in a bit of a blah mood.

One of my favorite things... sleeping in.

Monday, August 13, 2012


     I'm sitting in my new apartment, in my new desk chair, typing on my new laptop, which is sitting on my new desk.  Across from me is my new futon.  Next to me are the text books for the new classes I'm teaching at my new job. Tonight for dinner I ate a broccoli/beef/rice dish that I cooked in my new skillet, drank water from a new glass, and watched an episode of Covert Affairs on my new TV.

     Some things in my life are the same, but many things are new.

     As I was packing for this move, I spent some time looking through my old things.  I came across the book of quotes, memories, and good-byes that was given to my senior class when we graduated High School.  In there, one of my former religion teachers included a list of the "buzz word" phrases she drilled into our heads during her classes.  One of them simply says, "Change happens."

     It's true of course.  Change happens.  Sometimes we are the driving force behind the change in our own lives.  Sometimes the change comes and is completely out of our control.  Sometimes it is well planned, diligently thought through, and purposefully carried out.  Sometimes it comes unexpectedly - catching us off guard.

     No matter how it comes about or what it direction it ends up taking us, when presented with change, we are presented with a choice.  How do we react to the change?  Do we embrace it, ride the wave, and make the most of it?  Or do we shy away, pretend it can't touch us, and act like it is not real?

     As I sit as this desk, typing on this computer, if I look to my right I will see the Divine Mercy image.  Inscribed at the bottom is that simple and ever important prayer of St. Faustina's.  "Jesus I trust you."

     This life is a constant journey toward an eternal end.  It's a journey that changes many times along the way.  Whether the change is by our design or because of circumstances we cannot control, God's design is within its scope. Our prayer can remain constant through the change.

"Jesus I trust in you."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sometimes You Have to Leap

I've spent the last two years of my life teaching spirited second graders at a wonderful Catholic School in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.  (Some of the funniest dialogues have been documented on this blog.  If you click on the category "From the Mouth of a Child" you'll find them all.)  Recently, I chose not to sign my contract for next year.  I do not currently have a job lined up.

So, why didn't sign?

I remembering wanting a variety of careers growing up: mailman, psychiatrist, dolphin trainer.  But I could never actually see myself doing anything but teaching.  I loved school.  I loved playing school at home.  I had a chalkboard in my bed room and a whole list of kids and papers to grade.  Speaking of grading papers, I loved helping my friends who taught with their grading.

I walked into my first teaching job with relative ease.  I had a strong mentor.  I was surrounded by willing, helpful, and friendly teachers.  I had families who were good to me. I struggled that first year to really put my heart fully into what I was doing.  I think on a huge level I was afraid that if I did, I would get stuck in teaching forever.

When I made the decision to walk away from youth ministry, I made a promise to myself.  I promised that I would put all of myself into my classroom.  I would work hard.  I would embrace the people around me.  I would dive into the community.  I would see myself as a fully-given component of my students' lives.  And while I cannot look at everyday and say that I upheld that promise, I can say that overall I found success.

Even in the best moments, I could not stop myself from wondering what else is out there for me.  There were whispers of a gentle stirring in my heart to search, to find.  When it came time to sign the contract, I was torn - torn between an excellent job (with its challenges of course) and this unsettled sense within of a "something more" that perhaps lay elsewhere.

I do not know exactly what I will find on this journey.  I cannot say where I will be even at the next step.  But I do know that it is with great faith and trust that I am taking this leap.  Why the leap?  Because my life doesn't have to be an unhappy sense of trapped.  My life can be joyful and constant movement toward that ever illusive more.  The more that is only fully found and dwelt in at the throne of our Heavenly Father.

There is a definite sense of sadness in leaving.  I'll miss the incredible people I've learned to call friends.  But it is not with a heavy heart that I go.  I leave with a sense of, "okay.  This is it. Here I go."

"Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.  Knock and the door shall be opened for you."