Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gasping for ... Air?

With so many new things happening in my life right now, it is difficult to blog. Not because I don't have time, but because there are so many "blogable" topics that it is hard for me to sit down and focus on just one.

All of the new things have kept me very busy, so when I something profound hits me, it comes unexpectedly and intensely. That is true of this post as well.

It is hard to be out of college.  It is hard to have my life look so different. This is not because I am unhappy, on the contrary, I'm experiencing deep conviction that this is what God wants for my life right now, though I see it as a temporary "now".  This is a time of transition.  I mistakenly believed that the time of transition began in the weeks leading up to graduation and would end when I started teaching.  False.  So when will it end?  When I finally buy a new car? Probably not.  When I've been teaching for a couple months and have settled into a routine? Probably not. No, I'm coming to realize that this transition is likely much bigger than those things.  It is likely to continue for some time.

As I have moved back home and started working, my closest friends have also moved to new things and started new jobs (or grad school).  I have felt very alone.  I'm longing for deep friendship.  I'm longing for a person in whom I can invest time, energy, emotion, and prayer.  I'm looking for someone with whom I can experience deep friendship.  It is a blessing to have someone who can follow all your stories, challenge all your shortcomings, and know that they can make you laugh.  That is a blessing that I had in great abundance in College. It is a blessing I want desperately again. 

This is the perfect time to talk about relying heavily on God, learning to trust and love Him in a way that results in my clear understanding that I need only Him.

The timing is perfect, but the discussion is not going to happen. Not now.  Now there is something that seems to be a bit more pressing.  We were created for communion with God through persons.  We were created to love God in the people around us.  To be a reflection of the relationships that is God, the Trinity. 

God calls us to respond to this reality in different ways.  The priest encounters the communitive nature of God in the people to whom he ministers. The religious sister or monk encounters that community in the other members of the Order.  The husband and wife encounter it in each other and in their children.

The question for me, who believes I am called to the married life, is: how am I to encounter that community now?  What does God want for that part of me that was created for community?

Yesterday, I read an old post Elizabeth had linked. In it, she described the many different phases in her life during which she made a familiar drive to a certain College Campus. Reading it, I was struck be the beauty of the movement of time, the grace which sprinkled every new phase with God. I found myself running, literally out of my seat, looking for some place where I could catch my breath.  I needed a place where I could pause and breathe in God's will for my life.  What I could read in her descriptions was the many different ways she was able to encounter God. 

It leaves me wondering what this time of longing for personal communion, for an encounter with God in a new person, this time of gasping, literally -not for air, but for my breath, for my life, for God - will one day look like. 

Where is this time of transition taking me?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things I do LIKE

A few nights ago, when I blogged a list of things I do not like, I promised a blog of things I DO like would follow.  I have been asked where that blog is.  It is here.

1.) Eggs in the mornings.
2.) Being around children.
3.) Helping pregnant mommies and mommies with newborns.
4.) Those friends with whom laughter is an inescapable given.
5.) The sheer and utter beauty of a happy, holy family striving to know and live God's will.
6.) The kind of prayer that, by its very nature, melts the unwilling and wayward heart, leaving in its place a heart that dances in surrender.
7.) The quiet and stillness of morning solitude.
8.) The warmth and comfort of the bed when you wake up a few hours before your alarm, relieved that it is not yet time to rise.
9.) The innocence and liveliness of young, pure hearts.
10.) Daises and Lillies.
11.) A cool breeze on a late-summer night.
12.) The way that you can smell fall before it arrives.
13.) The awe-inspiring peace brought forth through the breathing in and out of nature.
14.) Taking my shoes off after a day of working.
15.) Seeing the face of our great God in the eyes of those around me.
16.) God's mercy, forgiveness, and love.
17.) Listening to music.
18.) Watching NCIS.
19.) Movies and books that make me think about life and God and how those things are inextricably linked.
20.) That part of me that I'm keenly aware needs to change.  The part that is obviously unfinished.  The part is a constant, at times unbearable reminder that I am in desperate need of God.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Most Common Question

The thing that most people in my life want to know is how my school year is going.  I find it a difficult question to answer.  It's going well.  There is nothing wrong with it, nothing I would change.  Well.  Except the 5:15 wake up, the 30 minute drive, all the time on my feet, the super rushed eating of lunch, the challenge of making everything I have to do fit into the amount of time I have ... you know.  Just a few things. :-)

Oh, but even those things are not so bad.

It's ironic really.  For so long I lamented over not having my own classroom with my own procedures, supplies, ideas, and general way of doing things. Now that I have those things, I find that I wish I had someone (an over 5ft tall, adult someone who does NOT call me Miss Hunter) with whom to share them.  I don't always like being alone.

It is also interesting how some times my students seem normal sized to me.  I don't necessarily think of them as children.  It's only when I stop and look at them, really look at them, that I can see just how small they really are.  Not only small in size, but in the ways of the world.  It is not that they are naive; they see and feel brokenness.  I just see that they are beautiful children, clearly made the image and likeness of God. But again, I only see that when I take the time to pause and really see.

Perhaps that is part of why childhood is stripped away so easily in today's world.  Unless we take the time to really see who children are, we easily forget that they are small.  The acknowledgment of that smallness makes all the difference. Suddenly, I am compelled to transform the way I relate to them. I owe them the extra moment it takes for me to smile.  I owe them the pause before my words that changes my voice from impatient to warm and encouraging.  I owe them the diligence it takes to train and discipline.

I owe them my sacrifices.

I owe them because when I pause and look at them, I see the way to the Heavenly Kingdom.  They are showing me the path to God.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back-to-School Offering

There are many different reactions that come with going back to school. It is disappointing to have the carefree days of summer coming to a close. It can be sad to watch the days of sleeping until noon slip silently into the past.  The prospect of homework, novels, papers, and impossible math problems can make school look less and less appealing. However, there is something fun ...

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Some Things I Do Not Like

I woke up this morning in a bad mood, and I spent most of the day feeling the same way.  It was a bit odd to me. Sometimes when I'm really tired I get crabby.  Some days people seem a bit more annoying to me to than others.  However, I'm rarely merely in a down-right bad mood. 

In keeping with what became the theme of my day, tonight's blog is a list of things I do not like.

1.) Having to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
2.) When I type a long facebook message or email that gets deleted for some reason before it is sent.
3.) Being tired.
4.) Not having a space of my own.
5.) Being confused.
6.) Not being able to fix something that is broken.
7.) Having the check engine light come on in the car.
8.) Filling up the gas tank...though I DO like the smell of gasoline!
9.) Waking up and thinking that you still have time to sleep only to look at the clock and see that the alarm will be going off in a couple minutes.
10.) Not knowing what to wear.
11.) Killing bugs.
12.) Driving in snowy weather.
13.) When all of my favorite radio stations are playing commercials.
14.) When the NCIS marathon comes on but the episodes showing are the ones I just watched on DVD.
15.) Buying Wii games that aren't that much fun.
16.) Feeling overwhelmed.
17.) Knowing that my prayer life isn't strong enough.
18.) Making decisions that other people do not like.
19.) Confronting people who respond defensively.
20.) Having to admit my own failures.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a list of things I do LIKE.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Promise of Prayers

Tonight's blog is not a well-thought-out expression of me.  It does not summarize my day.  Blogging in that seems like a great burden right now.  I don't mean the kind of "burden" that holds me accountable to really thinking, processing, and sharing.  I mean the kind of burden that makes feel pulled too far in too many directions.

So while the words here are few, my promise is great.  You are in my prayers. I lift you up to our God, who loves us more than we will ever know. 

Tonight, I promise prayers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tomorrow is Nearly Upon Me

I'm laying in bed on this, the night before I begin my teaching career.  For the most part, I've been calmly freaking out about every last detail. Naturally.

The part that makes me smile is that, when I pause (and remember breathe), I notice an unmistakable sensation of excitement.  This is significant, especially for me, seeing as I generally struggle to be "excited" about anything.

I am overwhelmed at the enormity of the task set before me. To know these kids, my students, so that I may educate and form them in the Faith and in life is a formidable task to say the least. I hope that I love them well.  I hope that they blossom as children.  I hope that they grow in faith and come to know God.  I hope that they find the classroom to be a place happiness, fun, and genuine learning.

I hope they sit down and quietly listen when I need them to.  I hope that they pray and sing and behave at mass.  I hope that they get along with one another, that they do well in their studies, and that they never get hurt.

Most of all, I hope that they discover God and that, in doing so, they discover the joy of a lifetime of laughing and learning all sorts of new and wonderful things at the foot of His throne, under the guidance of His Church, and in the care of those to whom He has entrusted them.

I'm ready:  not at all confident in my own abilities, but utterly filled - to the brim - with confidence in His.

Won't you say a prayer for my 14 newest friends and I?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

1.) The world is waiting on your fiat.

Let that one sink in. Think of the magnitude of Mary's fiat in terms of the world. Her "let it be" brought forth the vessel of eternal life for all people - those that lived 1000s of years before her and 1000s of years after her. The world is waiting for the role your fiat - my fiat - plays.

2.) The stories of the lives of the Saints cannot tell the real story. The truth is, their lives were not about them at all. That's why they are Saints.

3.) Purity is a hard fought battle engaged in the war-zone of our hearts.

4.) Childhood is a gift...one we often try to take away far too soon.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peer Pressure

Last Thursday was the senior-send off.  One of our soon-to-be college freshmen led the night; his topic was peer pressure.

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Loving and Waiting in Perfection

You know that feeling that comes when it seems like you just can't catch a break?  That overwhelmed, tired, and worn-down feeling that is expressed peacefully with a shake of the head in disbelief ... or loudly with a stomp at the ground and angry, yet honest, shouts of frustration towards the Heavens? That's been me. I've done the disbelieving head-shake and the frustrated stomping and shouting, as well as everything that falls somewhere between.

Remember when I told you that God is making me holy? Well, its been a difficult journey.

I'm not sure when it all started, but I know that it has been going on for some time now. I distinctly remember it in the Holy Land. This time in my life has had two major characteristics. 1.) I have been pulled, pulled hard, in many different directions. Many by choice. There have been countless details in my life that have needed attention. There have conversations with teens that I have loved and would not trade for the world, but that have added to my burden. There have been events and meetings and conversations.  There have been changing friendships, changing lifestyles, and changing calls in my prayer. I have been pulled. 2.) I have felt, more so than ever before, alone. Though many times I have been surrounded by people, I have felt alone in my endeavors, alone in my person, and alone in my prayers. That loneliness has caused suffering.

I spoke also of my struggles and wonderment in regards to the Great Commission of the Gospels. It seems that God needed to stretch me, to increase my capacity to express, and to humble that part of me that takes pride in what I claim to know. Each conversation that begged of me a response to tough questions regarding the Church and God left me feeling abandoned, confused, and far too burdened. Beyond the needs of those questioning, there was another pull here. From God Himself came the pull towards deeper commitment to Him. As stood alone, undesirably called to be the representative of Christ's Church, I felt trapped inside myself. Try as I may, I could not escape.

God offered me little consolation.  I was surrounded by an abundance of desolation. My soul ached, longing for the change to which He called.  My flesh screamed in protest, begging me to give up, to walk away, to find something, anything else. My spirit was breaking.

Then I was reminded, in the most perfect way, of God's immense love. All of those things that caused so much discord within my soul came together for the occasion. I was alone, when asked by someone demanding more of me, to answer big questions.  In His wisdom, God granted me the grace to respond. In my response, God placed traces of the reminders I needed myself - that He loves us; that He truly works for the good of those who seek Him, even when everything in life seems to indicate that it isn't so; that when we are willing to turn to Him in our brokenness, He is able to heal us and change us - really heal and change us. That if He never withheld consolations, we would never realize just how much we need Him.  We would forget that everything we have is a gift, from God.  One that we do not deserve, but He gives nonetheless.

Throughout this time, in my honest prayers, I was left knowing that He was working.  However, that did not make the experience more appealing (or peaceful. As I dramatically declared to one friend, there was not a situation or relationship in my life that had peace. Even with Jesus all I did was cry and cry - hot tears of pain. I could not stop.). I knew that He was making me holy, but I have not the virtue to respond in a well-mannered, virtuous way.  Instead, I often found myself kicking and screaming, questioning and arguing - desperately seeking relief from the burdens I preferred not to bear.

And in all of that, God remained steadfast in His love and fidelity to me. He heard the honesty in the cries of my breaking heart. He listened. He loved.

He waited.

He waited for the unwilling smile that came with true surrender.  He waited for me to stop hiding, to stop pretending to run, not care, and not listen, and to stop telling Him that I couldn't, that He asked too much, that He was making it too hard.

He waited, and He loved. Perfectly.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

From The Dream Giver

Note: Yesterday was the first day I failed to blog since making the commitment to blog daily.  Today, was nearly the second. The mere thought of expressing my thoughts, feelings, and prayers right now is almost unbearably exhausting - a burden that is far to difficult and heavy. In order to not lose virtuous blogging momentum (assuming such a thing exists) I will allow to read an excerpt form The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkerson that challenges me and each time I read it.

Could it be that the Dream Giver gave every nobody a dream, but only some embraced their dreams? And even fewer pursued them?
The more he thought about it, the more he thought is had to be true. 
One thing Ordinary did know for sure: He didn't want to repeat his Father's mistake. He wouldn't waste another day waiting for his Dream to seem possible. He would find a way to pursue it.
Time passed. Ordinary worked hard on his plan to begin his Dream. He made hard choices. He made difficult changes. He even made big sacrifices.
 Finally, one morning, he was ready.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bibleopoly

Tonight I had the honor of being in the presence of 3 wonderful women who humored my desire to play two garage-sale-purchase-bible-games. One of those games was Bibleopoly, which I had played once before.

Although it is played in a way similar to Monopoly, the whole concept (and disposition of a successful player) is different.  While Monopoly encourages greed and the worldly pursuit of monetary gain, Bibleopoly encourages charity and the building of God's church on earth.

All of the cities are Biblical towns. There are "faith/contingency" spots, which tell the player to draw a "faith" card.  On that card is some kind of uplifting task or sacrificial movement with a positive twist.  There are also "abyss" cards, which are not pleasant.  Some send you to "meditate" without possibility of leaving the space for 3 turns. Another particularly devastating one recalls the Great Flood.  A player is forced to make a trip around the board, rolling only one die, knocking bricks off churches and costing property "caretakers" to loose offerings.

Each player becomes the "caretaker" of the different churches in the towns. In order to build the church, the players must earn the cornerstone and three bricks by giving charitably to the other players.  When a player is unable to make the required offering at a certain place, that player is not out of the game.  Rather, he gives what he is able.

Throughout the game, there are many opportunities to be greedy.  Sometimes the "faith" cards allow you to move yourself to any square you want. In that case, a player could easily move himself to the "community celebration" space and collect all the offerings there.  Additionally, there are some cards that allow you to move any player of your choice.  This would allow a player to move an opponent to his own town, thus collecting an offering.  However, both times I have played this game, those types of moves haven't happened.

There is something about the game that really does seem to bring out charity. I find myself genuinely wanting the other players to succeed so that the church can grow.  Even though it is fake money and a fake church, in some way it is touching, even inspiring, to see someone visit a church and make an offering out of their poverty.

I've also found that I really encounter my own selfishness in the game. I find myself hoping for selfish things to happen. I judgmentally (and pridefully) wonder if another player will be as generous as I have been.  Then when the flood card comes, I can almost feel the true weight of my real-life sin. Looking at the game board, I can almost see the real-life destruction my sinfulness causes.

In life, (and in Bibleoply too!) the road is not always easy. The reward is not always immediate. Sometimes, even when we are striving in virtuous community to build the Church, it doesn't happen. The tendency as the game goes on is to think more and more about yourself.  The pace of spontaneous generosity slows down. This danger exists in our own lives as well.  When the road seems impossibly long, and I grow tired and begin to feel alone, I tend to turn inward, to retreat into myself, to pity me. Sometimes, the lessons learned in the beginning seem lost on me in the long middle.

Thankfully, God will teach them to me again (and again and again) until it is finally drilled into my thick skull and embedded deeply in my cold and wayward heart I have learned them well.

And when Sarah drew the card that allowed her to choose any place she wanted to go, and she didn't choose the community celebration and the offerings that came with it, I smiled at her decision to instead go to a "faith" spot and draw a card. Then when that card sent her to the community celebration and she did receive the offerings, I grew, if only slightly, in my conviction that God really does take care of us.  Her selflessness was rewarded with a gift, and in the end, she was the first to build her church. When deny ourselves in selflessness, God rewards that as well.

Though it is only a game, the lessons packed away in that box, nestled and hidden amongst the game pieces and props are real. God does reward us. In Bibleopoly, the reward is nothing more than a trivial game night victory.  In real life, the stakes are higher and the rewards sweeter. When we work together to build His Church, giving from everything we have - no matter how small, helping each other in Christian charity,we bring glory to His name.


We play a small role in the building of His kingdom.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oh My...

I think it is fair to say that I'm having a minor, internal freak-out.

I've come to recognize that many times when I just seem annoyed, angry, or generally uncomfortable in my own self, there is usually something fairly big going on inside of me that interferes with my ability to control and interpret my emotions.

As I lay in bed last night, I was agitated.  This same thing had occurred for several preceding nights. I kept thinking about how wonderful it would be to go fishing, to be out on the river, in a boat, where my worries and thoughts seem to float peacefully along with the boat, where the gentle rocking back and forth seems to soothe the tension from my soul.

It was at this point that I noticed the recurring symptoms, the familiar inability to find internal peace. Then it hit me.  I'm not going back to Benedictine. I start teaching, actually teaching, very soon.  I have to buy a car. I have to start "the rest of my life." Now. Today. Yesterday. Even the days before that. All of those things I've always dreamed, hoped, and to which I have sensed a calling are bearing down on me suddenly.  Well, not really "suddenly." It has been 23 years in the making.  However, I am feeling it suddenly.

So I will continue into the days, weeks, and months ahead with this understanding in mind.  The understanding that I am afraid and I need not be.  How do I know? For the Bible tells me so. ;-)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Making Me Holy

I wouldn't call this a dry spell - though perhaps many would.  After all, it has many of the classic dry-spell characteristics: loneliness in prayer, feeling like God is not there.  However, I know that it is something more.

This is certainly a time of struggle.  God is stretching me in new directions.  He is challenging me in new ways.  I'm not learning this in my prayer. Rather, I am experiencing it in my life.  I feel justified in saying, "the hits just keep on coming."  I simply cannot seem to get on top.

It's nothing too big. Annoying conversations here.  Memory lapses there.  I've even found a whole lot of more-work-than-imagined mixed in as well. Some things are just constantly not going as planned, no matter how many times I alter the plan. This is a trying time in my life. There are many things I need to be doing to keep up, many that I want to be doing but cannot, and many more that I should be doing but am not. There is just a lot going.

The tricky part is that when I turn to God in prayer, I do not seem to meet a filling wellspring of faith, hope, love, and peace. I seem to meet silence. I pour out my heart, lay down my troubles, and wait. All I hear is silence. I know He is there.  I have no trouble believing that.  However, He is not responding.  He is testing my faith, teaching me to grow.

He is making me holy.

And it hurts. It's hard. To be honest, I'm not particularly fond of the whole process. However, I honestly want to place my life in His hands, to grow closer to Him, to live this life well so that I can be with Him forever in the next.  That means that today I will keep believing.  Today, I will choose to have hope.  I will continuing living and moving and praying.

One day, perhaps even today, I will thank Him for making me holy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Intentional Silence

Tonight this blog will be intentionally silent.

There are many things on my mind and in my heart right now, none of which are ready to be expressed publicly, nor am I able to see it as possible to do so prudently.

Goodnight.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Almost

I almost went to bed without blogging.

However, the scene was a bit too familiar.

"I'm already in bed"  "No one will notice"  "I'll pick it up again tomorrow"  "It isn't that important anyway"  "I can show commitment and discipline some other way"  "I did enough things well today"  "I can skip just once"

That is how it always begins.

Then pretty soon, day after day, that monologue of excuses is all that is left where the beginnings of virtue were once planted.

So, I pulled myself out of bed, turned the computer back on, and starting typing, bringing myself one step closer to "easy, joyful, and prompt."  One step close to virtue.