Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Awesome New Year's!!

I'm heading to Orlando, Florida for the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) National Conference.
You can check it out here.

It promises to be an amazing Catholic college experience. If a college is near where you live, they may have FOCUS missionaries. Check out what eles they are doing.

Happy New Year to you and your's!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How Religious Is Your State?

Find out here.

Interesting study. The numbers are higher than I would guess.

Life as example

There is a drastic difference between the interior life and the outside world. In Auburn, the two don’t seem very distant, but when I come home, both realities seem so contradictory that it makes me question both. Of course I know what the ideal life should be like, which just makes what I see around me that much sadder.

Coming home makes me very aware of what is missing from people’s lives. It’s interesting to see when and how God enters into each person’s life (although He is there all along). For me, it didn’t take much, but I think that has a lot to do with my personality. For others though, I am seeing how difficult it can be to leap from the cold secular world into a full time interior one. There are a lot of questions, concerns, and circumstances that hold people back. Although a single person can’t solely be responsible for “converting” someone (really, only the person working with God is), I can be an influencing factor in their perception of the interior life.

One thing that I’ve been conscious of is how I can appear to others. How I present myself and represent the Catholic faith does matter and really does affect how people view me in the least, and religion at the most. After years of trying to convince myself that what people think of me doesn’t matter, it in fact does. Not so much relating to me, but to them.

Sometimes people think I act like I’m better than them. I understand why they say this. I have high standards for people and I do things (such as not cursing, going to Mass, wearing a veil) that may seem lofty. It’s hard to defend myself without making things worse. Words mean little, actions say everything.

This break I’ve been reacquainted with the attitude that church is where you find people that think they are better than everyone else. This is a hard misconception to correct, because sometimes, it’s true. I think the solution is minimize judging and start humbling.

The longer I look at everything the Church calls me to, the more I realize all the reasons why it does so. Being humble isn’t only for myself, which is really important, but it’s also for others, especially those unsure about a religious life and God. When we humble ourselves we are true to ourselves and to others. If we live honestly, people will see that and may be less turned off by those in love with God.

I think it’s the least I can do to bring a bit of the interior life out into the open and out into the lonely world. Even if God hasn’t brought them to the point of life changing conversion yet, at least I can show them a glimpse of what it would be like. With God’s help, that glimpse can be a positive one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Random ramblings leading to (my attempt at) simplicity

Warning: these thoughts are very unorganized

I don’t think I’ve done a very good job this Advent. My goal of being anxiety-free has turned into depression. I haven’t kept up with meditations, or my reading or even going to daily Mass whenever I can. I did get to confession, but I need to go again. Still, I believe this Advent has been much closer to what an Advent is supposed to be.

In years past, Advent would consist of getting a chocolate calendar, then having to eat ten or so of the odd-shaped sweets because I had completely forgotten about it. We would always get to confession, but other than that and putting up lights and wrapping presents, Advent wasn’t anything special. Then Christmas would come and go.

Sometimes I worry that I won’t be able to sustain my spiritual life (see how I need help with the anxiety thing?). After this Advent, I’m not so worried about that anymore. If I ever hit a stale streak in my life, it is certainly because of my limited capacity and definitely not because that’s all there is. I’m also seeing how things don’t have to be complicated.

I like the child-like faith thing. It seems simple, easy. A child experiences things through innocent eyes. They may not understand everything perfectly, but they still see and experience the same thing. And perhaps because they aren’t thinking too deeply on things, they see what is truly happening, what is really important. If I could become like a child, maybe I’ll be able to be still and let others love me, and not question their motives.

Christmas is filled with a lot of meaning. Volumes of books can be written on the subject. The story alone is so profound that it would takes decades to contemplate the whole thing, and still would only scratch the surface of what it really is. But this isn’t the most important thing. Christmas is the start of a love story.

For now, I’m abandoning my plans and desires to understand God. This Christmas I pray to be emptied of everything so that I may be filled-up by Him. I want to start my love story.

May the birth of our Savior bring you peace and joy.

Monday, December 21, 2009


I took Ross' bait. Here is a map of where I've been when I graduated high school (if you don't count the visit to check out Auburn). At the end of high school I also had been to Australia, New Zealand, Canada (Niagara Falls) and the Bahamas.

I have at least one memory from every state I've set as "visited", although a few were from when I was quite young. Fun fact: I have been in four states at one time (exactly at the four corners of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah).

Updated travels:

This past summer, I was able to visit my sister and her husband in Italy. I can't wait to go back!

As you can see, most of my travels occurred throughout my life. I've been able to go to all these places because my mom (and myself) loves to travel, and every school break we had, we went somewhere. This will only be my second Christmas at home.

From what I can tell, the world is a very beautiful place, and the people are more alike than one would assume. Also, every place I've been to has had a Catholic Church right around the corner : )

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Being hurt by those you love and revealing God

Tonight I feel empty and distant from everyone. I’ve lost a lot of friends. I have been hurt a lot by those I consider myself closest to. This semester has been a train-wreck. I'm glad its over and Christmas (a very joyous time) is almost here!

I’ve begun a new way of dealing with my feelings. No matter what I’m feeling (lately, neglected and unloved), I relate it to Jesus. This can be applied to almost every human emotion, especially when dealing with relationships.

This week we anticipate Jesus' coming! This is certainly a joyous thing (for us). But I can’t stop focusing on how much this reveals about God.

God, the All Powerful, made himself vulnerable to us. First in Mary, as she had to agree to accept Jesus. Then he makes himself vulnerable in becoming a baby, the most vulnerable thing there is! A little baby is completely helpless. He depends on someone else for everything. It’s amazing that God trusted his severely imperfect humans with this! This was his Son!

Coming down to earth was HUGE! The only motivator there could have been is love, because it involved so much pain. The Father knew what would happen to Jesus. Not just what would happen on the cross, but in his whole life. Jesus would be ridiculed, mocked, ignored, hated, and ultimately killed. These actions are amplified by the fact that Jesus is love. He loved every single person who did these things to him. He created them and he would die for them. Still, they rejected him. Still, we reject him. Jesus is the poster child for unrequited love!

Out of every person who has ever lived, Jesus had it the worst. I can’t fathom how he did it. What it must have taken for the Father to give his Son to us!

It is a glorious thing that he came to us, but it is so incredibly painful. There is no greater love than what God has given for us. We must be so miserable and helpless that the only way to save us was for him to do that! Otherwise, he would have found another way. God reveals himself through a vulnerable poor child, and all he asks for is our love. He has given us everything. After knowing how much love he poured onto us and the world, how can we not want to do that?

Jesus has saved me once again from being hopeless. If he came to us, knowing of all the pain that would ensue and still was willing to endure it, surely my own pain is nothing to dwell over. I am loved, so deeply loved.

(I think Anne is getting at the same idea.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Story of my life

It was a rare rainy February day in the Californian desert and I needed to be born. I was past due. But I wasn’t ready. Instead I was a brat and turned around, insisting on not coming out. That’s right, I became breech after I was supposed to be born. My poor mother. The nurses tried to turn me around. My mother remembers it being quite uncomfortable and that she was becoming irritated as I refused to get in the proper position. I liked where I was. It was warm, cozy, safe. I like to think I knew what they were trying to do: rip me from the place I came to know and love, and introduce me to blinding light, cold metal surfaces and a world I wouldn’t like very much. Why would I make it any easier for them to do that? I’ve always been suspicious of people.

Finally, after hours of pressuring me to turn around, I eased my mom’s suffering and gave in to their demands. I was born. And thus began everything I’ve ever known. I often wish I had stayed in my cocoon of comfort.

After 20 years of trying to make this living-in-the-world thing work, I am still not ready for the world. I will wait and do everything in my power to postpone the inevitable, but still, I will be introduced to the world. Whether I like it or not.

Why is it hard for me to accept things? Why is it hard for me to not question and suspect that the worse will happen? I think it all comes back to my lack of trust in God. Why is it so hard for me to keep going when, what looks like a cliff, is quickly approaching? I think “God, please save me". Then I sit back and wait (and in what I feel like, is complete reliance on God). Well, sometimes He comes, but sometimes He lets me fall right off that cliff. Is it because I screwed up somewhere, either in not trusting Him or just failing to do what He told me to do? Or could it be that this is what He planned for me all along? Am I supposed to say, “Ok, this must be your will” or instead say “Lord, I am a miserable wreck and deserve to fail because I sinned against you”?

I really don’t know. I have no idea where to go, or how to feel. I want to trust in God so much, but it’s hard when I can’t prepare for what He’s doing to me. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my own failings. Why does everything have to be so hard? Can I go back to my safe womb now? This isn’t fun anymore.

Struggle for Truth

The homosexual rights movement borrows a lot of tactics and arguments that have been used in past rights movements (such as the women’s and African-American). It can seem like a compelling argument, especially when one knows of history. There are many well meaning people that think that this whole debate is all about love: saying who can love who and in what ways. On the surface, it does seem wrong to say that a person can’t have the same rights as someone else just because the situation is a little bit different.

The gay rights side say that people are discriminating against them and the correct response is an overwhelming accommodation for them and acceptance (not just toleration) of their actions. They compare their struggle to that of minorities in the 1960’s.

However, the gay rights movement is almost completely different than any other major movement in American history. For one, the civil rights movement didn’t call for acceptance of what African-Americans did, but instead, of who they are. African-Americans were fighting for the right to live as God intended them to be, and not under the constraints of segregation laws and racial judgment. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said he hoped his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

The gays right movement wants rights for actions, instead of being. No one is proposing it to be illegal for someone to be gay. It is instead keeping that it is illegal for such persons to do certain things (which is where the law comes in).

Say, for example, someone is a drug addict. No matter how they became one (genetics, mental illness, choice), they are a drug addict, and for the rest of their life they will be one. How should society react to this? Should we say, well since they are addicted to drugs, lets just let them have drugs, and we’ll make it so that it doesn’t harm society. Should we ignore them, not helping but instead ridiculing them, further insulting their dignity? Or, seeing that this isn’t the best condition for them, help them stop using drugs and support them in improving their lives? In regard to this example, all three have been proposed (and attempted), and I think we all know which is the best option.

I’m not saying that homosexuals are drug addicts, but the example has similarities. Some people argue that we can’t tell others how to live or what will make them happy. You can view this two different ways. The first being religious. As Christians, and as Catholics, we are called to love all people, and that includes proclaiming the Truth to them. If someone you love was a drug addict, you want to tell them how they are hurting themselves and help them to stop. The same holds true for all our relationships. If a friend curses and uses the Lord’s name in vain, it’s our duty to point out why they shouldn’t be doing that. Doing so is a way of loving them.

The second way of looking at this is from a legal standpoint. To say we can’t tell people what not to do just doesn’t make sense. Almost every law tells us something we can’t do. When driving, we can’t speed. We can’t murder people. We can’t not pay taxes. We can’t assault people we are angry with. There are a lot of laws telling us what we can’t do. If someone is really going to say that the government can’t tell them what they can’t do, then they probably should move to a deserted island.

The gay rights movement isn’t about love. It is about claiming rights that don’t exist. The movement is seeking to not only change laws so that gays can “marry” but to also force everyone to agree that it’s okay that they are doing sinful things.

However, like other movements, both sides can be to blame for the present situation. There has been and still is quite a bit of hatred of homosexual persons. This is wrong. While we cannot approve of their actions, we must still love the person. That is what Mayor Osby Davis spoke of when he stated his view of homosexual persons. This isn’t a hard concept. In fact, if you love anyone, you already know how to “love the person and hate the sin”. If your friend curses, you don’t insult and humiliate him, you continue to love him while praying for him to stop offending God.

Being gay, like being black, may be “who a person is”. However this certainly isn’t all there is to a person. I’d like to quote Glee. “I may be a strong black woman but I’m much more than that.” Also, “being” doesn’t necessarily require action. A drug addict will always be so, but that doesn’t mean they have to use drugs for the rest of their lives.

Overall, I think it’s sad what is happening. The only way to share the Truth is with an overwhelming amount of love. Otherwise no one will ever listen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Prayer

I pray you'll be our eyes,
and watch us where we go
And help us to be wise,
in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer,
when we lose our way
Lead us to the place,
guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe.

La luce che tu dai
I pray we'll find your light
Nel cuore resterà
And hold it in our hearts
A ricordarci che
When stars go out each night
L'eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera
Let this be our prayer
Quanta fede c'è
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

Sognamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace e di fraternità

La forza che ci dia
We ask that life be kind
È il desiderio che
And watch us from above
Ognuno trovi amor
We hope each soul will find
Intorno e dentro a sè
Another soul to love
Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Just like every child
Needs to find a place,
guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe
E la fede che
Hai acceso in noi
Sento che ci salvera

Listen to a version of it here

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How I feel...

Maybe chocolate will help...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The world wouldn't understand

Today was the last day of classes. All I have left to overcome is three finals then I can start focusing on other things. This past semester and more specifically, past weekend, I’ve become aware of how awkward and uncomfortable I really am. For the most part, at the beginnings of friendships I do alright, but then there comes a point when things change. It happens fairly soon, and from what I gather, it doesn’t happen to other people. In fact, with others, their “point” is one of instant understanding: something that takes their friendship deeper. This doesn’t happen to me. At my “point” I seem to hit a wall. I can have the best intentions, be really excited about getting to know someone, but no matter who it is or how I know them, there comes along that point.

Even if its not noticeable by others (which I think depends on the personality of the other person) I always feel it. It’s a sense of, well, what do we do now? It’s not that I’m not interested, maybe its that I just don’t know how things are supposed to naturally go, which would show that its hard for me to do anything “naturally”.

It gets a bit frustrating, especially since I always sense a certain something lacking with whoever it is I‘m getting to know, but having no clue what that could be. I feel I make people uncomfortable and feel misunderstood, which turns our potentially great friendship into one that never gets to an efforted one (where you plan to hang out instead of running into each other). Could it also be that I’m intimidating?

I find myself blaming it on never really having a “normal” development example to show me how things go. Instead I’m out in the world pretending to have social skills that I really haven’t got a clue about. No one even gets my jokes…

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Unexpectantly Beautiful

I have grown so much this semester. Looking back, it’s amazing to me to see what has happened and how I’ve changed within it. This semester will always be defined, at least in part, as the semester my mom was deployed. What a journey that has been (and it‘s not even over)! Just in talking with her, it makes me so proud of her, my family, my country and everyone else over there. Not only that but also everyone here who supports them. If you’ve ever sent a card, cookie or chipped in money for phone cards or anything else, know that it has made a huge impact in their life. It is greatly appreciated.

This was also the semester after field training. Many things in my life (internal and external) have changed because of it. I feel I can more maturely discern the military path now that I’m more entrenched in it. I’ve learned this semester, what I’ve felt all along: the military is where I belong.

Sporadically I’m asked why I want to go into the military. I’ve always have had a lot of reasons for it. Until recently they were mainly selfish (good benefits, see the world, keep in shape, steady job) but now I’ve been exposed to a whole new list of why I know this is what I’m called to do. Mostly it’s been realized through my mom.

Out of all her children, I’m the most like her. We both are pretty independent, we have flexible but strong ideas, and we have to be doing something. Thinking of her over there is a really strange idea. I questioned if this was really part of the plan. But how stupid I was! God had this planned the entire time. I can go through all the different foreshowings up to where we are now, but that’s beside the point. Something has happened to her during her time in Iraq. She has seen God in a very real way. She has learned what submission really is, and also how that translates to her marriage. Although not perfectly, she has learned how to wait, how to love, how to accept. I want to grow the way she has.

The mediation from Pope Benedict XVI (in the book Benedictus) for December 6th goes really well with this theme (I‘ll just give you the whole thing):

The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside… The human being lives in the suspicion that God’s love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God. He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God’s level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death. Love is not dependence but a gift that makes us live… We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God’s will. For God’s will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.

God, through my mother and more generally, through my experience with the military, has taught me to trust Him. Instead of questioning, I should be more inclined to accept, especially if I’m in the midst of a hardship. Instead of despairing, I should praise God! Really, everything does work out! Life is a great adventure, one that has God’s hand on it the entire way!

I’ve learned that not only does God have an awesome plan, that is being played out right now for you, but it also involves putting you exactly where (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) you need to be to experience Him and learn what you need to and grow in love for Him. Really, the military is prefect for that.

Just tonight my mom was telling me about a saying that gets thrown out a lot over there (I’m sure you’ve heard it): Let go and let God. This sentence becomes a way of life over there. You have a unique chance to really and completely trust God. I mean, what else are you going to do?

How often do we second-guess God? Do we really think and believe that what he has in store of us is THE best possible plan that could ever happen?

How much easier will this life be if we stop worrying about things we can’t change, and instead embrace each situation as the opportunity to grow closer to God. Indeed that is what every situation presents to us. How often to we pass it up? How often do we say, “not today God, I think I have it all figured out now, I’ll take it from here”?

This week, I’m striving to be like the kings, who saw the sign (the Star) and set off. Not really knowing where to go, or what may happen, they trusted. They didn’t need a long list of reasons (as I like to have) in order to be convinced. They had a childlike faith. A faith where they knew that no matter what happened, it not only would be okay, but that it would be the best thing that could happen!

God is great and so beautiful!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What the bucket?

I am frequently scandalized by the world. Trying to reconcile the great truths of Christianity and what I experience around me is exhausting.

For a few months now, I’ve been told to not collect box tops (which I have been doing for over a decade) because General Mills donates to Planned Parenthood. If this is true, I not only shouldn't collect box tops but also not buy their products. I did some research. It is extremely upsetting. Not only did I find evidence that GM does give money to Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, but I also found a list of many other companies that support PP. This list comes from the official PP website and it lists companies who will match your donation to them!!

What am I supposed to do?? Some of these names (cough *Bank of America* cough) really upset me. Other surprises are eBay, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Starbucks, the list goes on. Not only do I worry about what to do from now on, but also that I have, indirectly of course, but nonetheless, helped fund that disgusting organization. Seriously, how am I supposed to not care about this? Can’t I just live out a truly pro-life stance without somehow giving my money to killing and hurting people? I guess not when I interact with the world. I will not let this world control me. We need so many prayers.