Let’s just say that the saints in Heaven know
how to celebrate No-Shave November
in quite classy ways.
What I’m Drinking: Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” I wholeheartedly agree with him, except in the case of coffee. With the huge range of fall coffee drinks available, I still tend to end up drinking my dear old friend, the vanilla latte. There is something about sitting in a coffee shop, listening to live jazz music and sipping one of these gems.
With that being said, next week’s goal is to branch out a little and try something new. We’ll see how that goes – I may end up back with my old favorites. But Oscar Wilde also says that “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” Life motto right there, friends.
I broke my wrist the day of our last game, and I only scored two goals that season – both for the other team, who jokingly said that I was their MVP.
Typical Midwestern that I am though, I love watching baseball. Out of all the sports that are out there, I understand the concept of baseball. Hits, pitches, runs, and strikes are all words that I can gladly define. I don’t have a certain team that receives all my loyalty, and I’ll watch just about any team. However, I’m also a Kansas girl, and that spells some good news this weekend.
For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, let me catch you up to speed. The Kansas City Royals are a team that haven’t done so hot in quite a while. Actually, let me throw down some statistics for you. The Royals were founded in 1969 and as a team, they were pretty decent. In fact, between 1976 to 1985, the team actually qualified seven times for the playoff seasons.
In 1985, the Royals won the world series and then after that, things took a turn for the worse. For 28 seasons from 1986 to 2013, the Royals did not place high enough to play in the postseasons. This statistic meant that the Royals had one of the longest postseason droughts in the wild-card era of baseball teams. Not a number we’re proud of.
This weekend at Mass, our priest had a brilliant quote. “Am I as excited and energized about winning the prize of Heaven as I am about the Royals winning the World Series?” How true. Seats at the Royals games are selling for hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
Seats at Mass – the sacrifice where Christ’s body and blood is made present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine – those seats are free thanks to the grace of God – and also completely empty on the night of the game. At a parish near my house, the parish mission on evangelizing and the Catholic faith was cancelled because the event couldn’t compete with the Royals game on television.
When I was nine years old, I learned to tread water. I was an awkward kid (I’m an awkward adult, who are we kidding) so coordination and sports-like activities were not my forte. I struggled and struggled to pull my head above water as the seemingly endless depths loomed underneath me. Visions of sharks and fish – who are still my greatest fear – danced in my head as I clenched my fists and pushed to make it just past that one minute mark that the test required.
Eleven years later, I’m still learning to tread water. Do you know someone who is addicted to something? Well now you can add one more person to that list – yours truly. I’m addicted to busy schedules. And before you laugh, let me explain what that means.
I hate the quiet. That may partially be due to the fact that I grew up in a family of ten and noise is normalcy. I can’t study without a little bit of music playing, multiple conversations going at once do not phase me, and my ears are probably adjusted to the noise levels of a jumbo jet thanks to the joyful shouts of my little siblings. I don’t know what to do in the silence – I start to go crazy.
This applies to the physical silence of no audible noise – but also the silence in a life schedule. I go stir crazy on school breaks and summers drag on and on without a set schedule to follow. When school rolls around, I take a minimum of 15 credit hours just to keep myself busy. I start stuffing things into a schedule – cramming my days so full that I fall asleep utterly exhausted at 3:00 am, still upset that everything is not done yet. And despite that cramming and self-awareness of knowing that my schedule is getting to the max, I’ll still say yes to mostly anything asked of me.
I always imagine myself as a circus juggler, adding more and more balls into my act and seeing how close I can creep towards the edge of dropping them all. And one by one this semester, they began to fall. And I began to loose it.
It seemed that everything I was passionate about was slumping. My school was overwhelming. My family’s health was a mysterious turmoil. My spiritual life hit rock bottom and I went weeks without even desiring to pray. I cried in my friend’s kitchen and poured my heart out to a God whose plan I didn’t even care to understand. I was drained. I was walking around campus and my job with a haze covering my heart, making it incredibly hard to be energetic about anything, especially around those I loved the most.
There were so many nights that I crawled to adoration just begging God to show me how to juggle. How do I balance everything and not disappoint anyone who was counting on me? How do I keep that ‘It’s fine” mask on as it got heavier and heavier, and people started to glimpse the struggling, broken, fallen me?
And He didn’t teach me how to juggle – He taught me how to let things fall, and then fall into Him myself.
It was then that peace started flooding into my life like an ocean of mercy. It was then when I finally was able to stop and listen and not only tolerate the silence, but enjoy it, search for it, yearn for it.
In 1 Corinthians 4:8-9, I was comforted by a God who was by my side even in the turmoil of life’s ups and downs. I was held by a Savior who knew that my faith and self-esteem and sustainability was shuddering and that it seemed that at every corner was another trial. I was supported by a God who knew that one more thing that I took on could be that straw that broke my back. I began to slowly rely on His amazing and unending strength, and realize the frailty of my own heart without Him.
In 1 Peter 5:10, I was amazed at a God who called me to greatness and was going to let me suffer. Not because He didn’t love me…but because He did. Who was going to restore me in Himself and His amazing grace and not only help me with my burdens but restore me and make me strong again in Him.
In Zephaniah 3:17 I was strengthened by a Warrior God who stood by me at all times. He was proud of my desire to be His hands and feet in the world, and knew the ache of my heart and weary soul. He was surrounding me with a love that did not rebuke, and was rejoicing over me with singing.
And in 2 Corinthians 12:9 God shocked me. He not only told me that His grace was sufficient, but that my suffering was a way to glorify God.
My suffering was a way to glorify God – it was in my weakness that highlighted and accented Christ’s amazing power that was making me whole and pointing the world to His amazing love and concern and goodness.
Perhaps one of the most quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV sayings is: “The world promises you comfort but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”
GREATNESS. Not exhaustion. Not existence. But greatness – which comes with a price. Great lives call you to great challenges and great changes.
It’s okay to not be okay – it’s all right to feel the end of your rope and run to God for the strength to just keep going day by day, sometimes minute by minute.
Here I am at the end of me, trying to hold on to what I cannot see. I forgot how to hope, the night’s been so long. I cling to your promise that there will be a dawn. (Superchic[k] “Beauty from Pain”)
Yet it’s not ok to sit in that place of struggle and wrestle alone. It is there in the struggle that Christ calls us to lean closest to him. There in the deepest valley He is able to reach us at our most vulnerable points. You never know God is all you need until God is all you have to cling to.
So cling to Him. Run to His heart. He made your very being and soul, He knows your deepest desires and dreams. I don’t know what your struggle’s name is…mine is packed schedules and a fear of silences. Yet whatever you are struggling with right now, know that He is bigger than the pain. And He gives you nothing that you cannot conquer…with His help.
Stop Existing. Start Living. Break free from the chains. Be Not Afraid.
What I’m Drinking: Once again, the amount of coffee that has been consumed this week is borderline addiction level. I’m averaging a good five cups a day, and that doesn’t count the two cups I usually have at night. I heard on the news today though that coffee is just as good for you as water, because it is in fact 97% water. But then they dropped in the line about how this only applies if you drink your coffee with no sweeteners, so that comforting statistic quickly dropped out of the window for me.
The convenient store two minutes from my house put their coffee on sale for ninety-nine cents for any size cup. That’s a disaster waiting to happen for me – it’s been two weeks since this sale started (which will go ’til the end of January) and the clerks already know me by name and face.
So my coffee for the past week has mostly consisted of the above, and I’m not complaining. Coffee for the week and under $10? Nope, not a complaint at all from this addict.
What I’m Thinking: How interesting is it that everyone puts up a facade of ‘having it all together’ for each other? We go about our lives with the phrase “I’m fine!” as the response to anyone asking us how we’re doing, and we may not even have anyone in our lives who really asks us “No, how are you really doing?”
It’s okay to not have it all together – believe me, I’ll be the first in line to say that I am falling apart. Some days I’m making it minute by minute by the grace of God, held together by Him and a bunch of good intentions.
Yet what is even more amazing than the solidarity found in this day-in-day-out struggle is the beauty of a God who has been through our experiences and has remained steady in the face of adversity, hardship, and temptation. The readings this weekend were on point for this subject. The first reading was from the book of Isiah, and check these verses out:
“Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he was put to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11).
Then, the relate-ability of Christ to our struggles was magnified in the second reading from Hebrews, where Paul wrote,
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confessions. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s also highly recommended to draw near to the one who has it together at all times – Christ Jesus. People will disappoint us. Friends and even family will come and go, creating ripples in our lives. But Christ? He’s the steady one who we can lean on – he’s not going to shift with time, but instead promises to be a presence
So lean on him. Don’t loose hope or get lost in the struggle. Go get yourself some ninety-nine cent coffee. Be Not Afraid.
I don’t have a green thumb. In my life, I can count the times I have gotten flowers on one hand, and the times I have killed them on the same hand. My rose from Dad on Valentines’ day is always the first one to die in the vase – even though I swear I do nothing different to it than anyone else’s. Each year at the bank I work at, our boss gives us Poinsettias about a week before Christmas. Mine is dead by Christmas Eve. The plant that lived in a pottery vase that I was given for my graduation is now just a pottery vase that holds my pencils, because the plant has not been with us for over two years. The little potted plant my best friend gave me is dead (sorry Mary) because I didn’t think it needed water. Don’t ask me why. I just don’t have a green thumb. And that’s ok – to each his own, everyone has a set of talents and gifts. Plant care is not one of mine.
So this little orchid that a fantastic guy gave me may have a short lived life in my house, by no means will it be intentional plant slaughter, it’s just something bound to happen. Yet during it’s (possibly short) life here, it has already taught me quite a bit.
For starters, let’s just take a moment to appreciate how little gardening work an orchid needs. You feed it by ice cubes (the water, not the rapper) and sit in a a partly sunny place. Check. So this can’t be too much – although I’m sure I’ll forget it’s water supply and pass by it one day as it is breathing its last. But, on the optimistic side, it’s little purple flowers are nice and bright and death has not cast it’s shadow over the door of this little plant.
Here is the phenomenal, mind blowing part. Look at this little plant. Just look at it. See how straight it is standing, reaching up for the sun? (It’s normally in my room, but it came outside today for a photo shoot). How neat is that? It knows that it grows best standing up, and so it stands. Check this out, it gets cooler:
So despite all the good things that I can surround myself with, I still need a little baby alligator clip to keep me straight. What is my little baby alligator clip? God’s grace. Something I don’t have to deserve to receive, something that God is constantly just pouring down on me through the sacraments and grace and the time that I spend just looking at His amazing love in adoration. Something that I see in the faces of those I interact with, and the love of the friends who reach out and sit me down when they know something is wrong.
An orchid growing horizontal is pretty cool – not something you see everyday. But an orchid that knows its mission and purpose and loves reaching up to the God who made it? Now that my friends is a sight to see. So, seriously, if you want to come see it, you better stop by quick. Because it may be reaching for the ground in a couple of days. But until that day comes, I’m really enjoying the blessing of a good reminder of how it’s ok to not have it all together, and the importance of a little baby alligator clip.
Where was I? Oh right, coffee reminiscing. Can you tell I’m still a little sleep deprived? I’m going to have to go with the new spiced pumpkin latte from Panera with my “What I’m Drinking” for the week. Every Saturday night I swing by that bakery and this week I saw that their coffee menu had changed to include this beauty. Guys. It’s amazing. And call me the typical white girl as long as you want (minus the Starbucks, more on that later) but there is nothing quite like a pumpkin coffee as you watch the leaves off your back porch.
|Ah, a site of beauty.|
|Would you look at that? Just look at it!|
Now onto the thoughts of my crazy, jumbled brain, if that wasn’t crazy and jumbled enough for you. My little sister is eighteen years old, which is a fact that usually blows my mind. It doesn’t seem that I’m old enough to have a little sister who has also crossed the bridge to the adult world. Yet, eighteen years old she is, and I’m incredibly proud of her. It’s an incredible blessing to go to the same college as her as well – we share a professor this semester and it is exciting to know that when he talks about his ‘Freshman class,’ he’s talking about her.
Take a lesson this week from Miss Mady. Side not – she also blogs, I am beyond excited to be able to follow her adventures. Get out of your comfort zone – and apply that to faith and general life goals tat you have in mind for yourself. You do not have to travel internationally to accomplish amazing things for Christ. You can be His hands and feet here with your own family, campuses, friends and workplaces.
Saint Teresa of Avila (yet another one of my favorites up in Heaven) once said, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.” Don’t be afraid to ask God for something that seems out of your reach. If it is in His plan for your life, it’s going to work out. Awareness that the answer could be ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Maybe’ is also
I wrote about this earlier this week, but it’s still relevant. Get into the trenches. Get out of your comfort zone. Life is too short – take it from the twenty year old who is realizing that my life could be over twenty percent lived. Honestly, who knows? It could be that my life is already ninety percent completed. But I know this – I don’t want to look back on my life (however much of it God gives me) and think “Wow, I could have done so much more for Him if I’d only put my plan aside and let Him take over.”
Be bold. Jump into the deep end. Drink some coffee. Be Not Afraid.
Pope Francis is back in Rome after a much-anticipated journey to America. While he was here, he spoke to many people who the world will recognize (President Barack Obama, members of Congress, the United Nations). Yet the most significant part of this journey to the states was the love that Pope Francis showed the least of these.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
What the world needs the most? Human connection. We have a culture that talks itself blue in the face about love and acceptance, but inside is yearning and longing for authentic love and the ability to recognize self worth.
Human connection. It means getting out of your comfort zone and off the path defined by your own will. It means connecting with humans – now such a crazy concept thanks to the blessing/curse of social media. It is being Christ’s hands and feet to a world so desperate for touch and care.
We have a God who sees hearts like we see faces, a God who hears ache like we hear voices, and we have a God who touches and holds and heals our wounds like we long to be held.
How are you living your faith? Your vocation? Our faith is not supposed to be a clean and tidy hour on Sunday morning. It is not an accessory to put on at convenient times, and hide away when it doesn’t match the rest of your outfit. Instead, it’s a faith that ignites our passion for others, to serve, to do things the world will look at and scoff at.
I don’t know your thoughts on Pope Francis. I know that opinions are varied across the board and there is a constant push to politicize his comments out of context. But I do know this. Pope Francis knows how to practice what he preaches. There is not a disconnect between what he says and what he does. He tells us to love the poor…and then goes and spends time with the poor themselves.
Get in the trenches.
Do you know why no one wants to get in the trenches with their faith? It’s not pleasant. It means getting yourself dirty, working with those who no one wants to even acknowledge, and pour your life blood into a mission that you may never see results from. It’s about planting seeds that may not bloom for years and years, when no one even remembers your name.
It’s not about you. The trenches are not an environment for self glorification. If anything, it’s quite the opposite. You have to make yourself small to climb down and connect with people on a personal level.
It is not enough for your faith life to post a Bible verse on Facebook once in a while. Your faith life is a head and heart combination that should invade into every aspect of your life. Your interactions with family, friends, classmates, co-workers…even your enemies. We’re called to live radical lives. So if this is your battle cry to follow the example Pope Francis is showing the world, let’s start living it.
Christ has no body but yours. No hands, not feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet. Yours are the eyes. You are his body…Christ has no body now on earth but yours. (Saint Teresa of Avila).
I’m done with a boring life that drains the joy out of me.
Our time on earth – yes, a blink of the eye or a speck of dust in comparison to the expansiveness of eternity – is a chance for us to connect with people here in order to spend eternity with them in Heaven. A life that radiates so much joy that people wonder what we have that is different. What gives us hope in a world full of so much hatred and despair.
If there are two things that I am passionate about, two things that have a constant presence in my life…I’d have to say they would be coffee and Catholicism. My mornings start not only with a good shot of caffeine, but also a morning offering or rosary on the way to work. So this weekly blog series is going to combine my two favorite things in the world.
What I’m Drinking: Ok, I’ll play favorites. There is a little coffee shop on the corner of campus that I adore. It has a more industrial theme, with exposed metal lighting, rough wooden benches, and modern, local art hanging from the walls. The baristas are spectacular, and the drip brew coffee is phenomenal. It’s a popular place for off campus studying, and even on the weekend, seats could be hard to come by. The hustle and bustle of student life is alive and well there, and the night crowd is fantastic. Poetry readings, book clubs and local musicians draw different crowds. In other words, the perfect place for people watching…one of my favorite hobbies.
The drink of today is my usual – I honestly have never tried anything else there. Vanilla latte – medium, for here. The cup has a quote inscribed in the inside rim – “Without love, it’s just coffee.” Expertly crafted hearts line up, ready to be sipped and enjoyed. I can be seen at the window, cup on the bar, laptop plugged in. This is my place. This is my drink.
What I’m Thinking: Do you know what is really neat? (besides neature) Swing dancing. I am by no means a pro at swing dancing, but there is something that is really awesome about it – and something I can’t exactly pin point. I love how classy it is – and how much Theology of the Body is tied into the dancing itself. But more on that later – there’s a whole post on that coming soon.
Anyway, this week at the campus center, we had a guest speaker come by and teaching us not only how to swing dance, but how swing dancing can correlate to our faith. I was beyond excited. So excited in fact that this deserves a Taylor Swift reaction. Talk about an epic combination. Ok, now onto what he really talked about.
What if we viewed evangelizing or talking about our faith in the same light? Yep, sometimes in the initial conversations, it can be weird. Do you say your plans include Mass when someone asks you what you are doing this weekend? Or talk about the retreat you just went on with someone in class on Monday? What about when a crude joke gets brought up in class, or a work place situation calls for you to stand your ground in terms of morality? It’s interesting. It can be squishy.
When I swing dance now, I don’t know what I’m doing. Honestly. I am exceedingly grateful to be the gal in this situation – I just have to follow a guy’s lead. Yet it takes a lot of trust to know that he isn’t going to drop me or run me into another couple. It also takes practice. You can’t just walk onto the dance floor in a bar and impress everyone with your mad skills (ok, maybe you can. I can’t.) But after practice and familiarity with your partner, things start to get smooth – and you can really make an impact.