Thursday, October 25, 2012

Giving It All Up to God

I've been learning a lot lately, and not just about the law.  I'm daily discovering how much easier and freer my life is when I turn all my worries and stress over to God.  He has a wonderful plan for my life, even if I don't really understand what it is exactly.  I find that every time I try to take control, things tend to get difficult and hard to understand.  But when I let my own control go and trust in Him instead, my soul is at peace––even with all the stress surrounding me.  I know that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.  I just have to let Him in to do just that.

Needless to say, all of this musing led to a new set of song lyrics.  I don't have a tune for them yet (too many other songs floating around in my head), but here are the lyrics for your enjoyment.

Total freedom comes from complete surrender
Through saving grace my heart is saved.
The plan of life isn't mine to create.
I simply need to trust.

(REFRAIN)  I'm letting it all go,
Throwing my hands up in the air.
To gain control of my own life,
I must give it all to You.

I don't always understand Your plan,
And my human nature falls at times.
I want to know where my life is going,
But the misty future confuses me.


The future whirls before me
Muddling my present state of mind.
I cannot tell where my path is leading,
But I'm trying to let it all go.


I cannot succeed on my own.
My human will is too weak.
But as I daily offer my life to You,
My trust in Your plan grows.


You daily increase my faith in Your plan,
And I know You will not let me fall.
As I surrender my will into Your hands,
I gain freedom in my life.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

1000 Words

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  As I browse through the thousands of photos I have taken, I am continually amazed at the wonders of technology that can capture beautiful moments in time.  Now they are preserved forever more in both my memory and in the images before me.  I'd like to share just a few that I have taken in the last few months.  All are the same, insofar as they are all sunsets; however, each shot captures a different angle of the beauty of creation.  Every time I see a sunset, I revel in the glory of God's creation.  I bask in the warmth and beauty of His love as seen through the natural world that is the handiwork of His eternal paintbrush.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Filling Up the Jar

Several years ago, I attended a youth conference which greatly impacted my life.  One thing that I still remember quite clearly was a talk about fitting God into our busy lives.  The speaker used the following analogy: Take a very large jar.  This represents the sum total of your time.  If you fill it first with all the little things (represented by small pebbles and stones) like leisure time, school work, job, friends, family, and all those other one hundred and one things you simply have to get done, your jar becomes very full, very quickly.  And then when you try to "fit in" God and a spiritual life (represented by a large rock), you simply can't find the space/time.  If you put God in first, however, you still have plenty of room for all those other little pebbles to fit around the large rock.

This analogy has proven true time and again over the past several years up to the present day.  We tend to think that we haven't got time for that rosary, or a chaplet, or daily Mass.  There are so many other things on our plate that we can't afford even 10 minutes in prayer.

Let's take a step back and see with what we do fill our time.  Eating.  Relaxing.  Working.  Studying.  Chilling.  Sleeping.  Spending time with family and friends.  And at the end of the day, generally we still haven't crossed off even one third of the things on our checklists.  So how could we have time to add in one more thing, especially something so daunting as developing our spiritual life?

The answer is beautifully simple.  If you commit yourself to putting God first, everything else will fall into place.  I understand that everyone has different claims on their time, talent and treasure.  No one, however, has so much to do that they can't spend even a few minutes in prayer.

In my own experience, I have discovered that when I put God first, He rewards me one hundredfold.  At the present, I have the blessed opportunity to attend daily mass.  I know that there are many other things I could be doing, some of them highly productive, with the time I spend in mass.  I, however, wouldn't trade my spiritual time for anything else.  I'm studying the law, which is arguably one of the most difficult graduate programs to survive, let alone succeed in.  I know that times will be inevitably stressful, especially come exam week.  I also know, however, that if I continue to develop my spiritual life and relationship with God, I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.  With His help, I can conquer my legal studies with excellence.  Without Him, nothing else has any true meaning.

So the next time you pass by a church, stop in for a few minutes just to say hello.  God likes hearing from us.  Make an earnest effort to go to mass more than once a week, or to say a daily chaplet or rosary.  Talk to God throughout your day.  If something is troubling you, ask Him for help.  If you're suffering, offer it up for the poor souls in Purgatory or those suffering around the world.  If you're happy about something, thank Him for the blessings.  It's really the little things that count.  Put the big rock of Faith and God into your life first, and everything else will fall right into place.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I'm All Alone . . . With No One Here Beside Me

Growing up most people dream about that day when they finally live on their own.  When they rent that first shoe box apartment or tiny house.  "That's the day," they say, "When I can do whatever I want.  I'll be free to come and go as I please.  I can eat all the junk food.  I can stay up late and watch movies real loud."  Sounds like the high life, right?  Even with all the bills that inevitably accompany your own place, you wish for the freedom it affords.

I'm currently sharing a two-bedroom apartment with one roommate.  I barely see her, though, so it's almost like having my own huge apartment.  (Huge is defined as: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining room, and spacious front entrance.)  But I'm discovering just how lonely living on your own can be.  The only social interaction I have right now is when I go to my classes or Mass.  Other than that, I'm holed up in my room studying and relaxing by watching movies and tv shows.  This whole "living alone" thing is not really all that great for my social life.

Of course, my awesome apartment space means that, technically, I've got lots of room for entertaining guests.  Or studying with all those friends of mine.  Oh, wait.  That's right.  My introverted shy personality (or maybe it's an intimidating aura) makes the process of creating new friendships extremely slow and difficult.  And the very few friends I've made so far are all in the same boat as me with the huge study load.

All this to say, living alone is great for that freedom aspect, but for me, it's going to make leaving my comfort shell even more difficult than normal.  Because I have no roommate to bring me into new social settings (and no gumption to invite myself), my social circle isn't going to expand very far at all.  Not that I really want a whole bunch of friends.  Too many people to keep up with makes my head spin.  Regardless, while I enjoy having my very own space, at the same time, I've realized that I don't really ever want my own apartment completely away from everyone else.  I'll survive here because I see the same people on a regular basis.  But moving to a foreign city alone could be severely detrimental.  Therefore, I have decided that when I move to a more permanent location, it will be somewhere I have connections or friends.  Some basis of human contact pre-existing rather than leaping into the great unknown without one familiar face to help ease the drop to Earth.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Setting the Bar High

You know what the worst part of achieving some semblance of excellence?  The expectations of those around you.  Let me first state that everyone should set the bar of excellence high.  Furthermore, living up to those expectations, while it may be a daunting task, is well worth the effort.  Each of us, as a child of God, is called to our ultimate destination: Heaven.  In order to achieve that goal, we must, with the grace of God, strive towards the excellence of a truly Christian life.  Each person goes about the specifics of this journey in their own way, but the general principles remain the same.

Someone you respect says, "I expect great things from you."  Regardless of your personal standard of excellence, you now inevitably feel pressure to achieve an even higher standard.  Nobody wants to disappoint the people they respect and love.  A distinction must be drawn, however, between the abstract "great things" and the concrete "great things" insofar as they apply to a specific situation.  Let's say, hypothetically, that you're pursuing graduate studies in a field which you're not exactly enthused to pursue.  Everyone around you insists that you will thrive in these particular studies, and that you will go on to do great things.  What if you change your mind and pursue something else?  Are you letting them down?  And if you are, does it really matter?

Living up to someone else's expectations can be a fantastic means of compelling yourself to draw closer to your ultimate goal.  Do not, however, let their expectations dictate how you specifically strive towards excellence.  The specifics about how you "achieve greatness" are entirely up to you.  And God, of course.  Furthermore, simply because you quit one pursuit to take up another does not mean that you've abandoned your pursuit of excellence.  Someone who truly cares about you will understand that the specifics of where and when don't matter so long as you are striving for excellence.  The secular world may look at a person who abandons graduate studies after a year as a failure.  You didn't complete the task at hand.  The secular world doesn't understand the true meaning of excellence.  It doesn't hinge on whether you graduate or not.  It hinges on whether you put your all into everything you did.  If you can stand up and honestly say that you tried your hardest to succeed, then no one can slight you for switching specific paths.  

Plus, God alone knows why each of us is where we are at the specific time we are there.  Maybe His plan for you only included one year of graduate studies because He knew that was all the time you needed there –– whether you'd met the people or learned the lessons you needed to learn before moving on to the next stage in your life.  The only way to know for certain, however, that you're following God's plan is to pray.  Spend time with Him.  Ask Him your questions.  Tell Him your worries.  Place your trust in His loving hands.  I know it isn't easy to act upon these statements.  Believe me, I've had my rough days –– still do.  I also know, however, that practice makes perfect.  If you fall, get right back up again.  God wants us to be happy and to gain access to the Kingdom of Heaven.  He'll help you every step of the way if you'll only let Him.

"I expect great things from you."  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

110 Hours

Electricity.  It is an incredible invention that powers our modern world.  And it is amazing to realize how much we depend upon it.  Several days ago, a massive storm swept through my area knocking out the power in more than 450,000 homes.  This was Friday evening before the 4th of July.  Speculation and conservative estimates changed daily as to when our power would be restored.  Apparently, we're on the bottom of the totem pole because our final estimate was the following Saturday.  Thankfully, our power returned midday on Wednesday, July 4th.  We welcomed it with joy and elation.  But how did we survive the 110 hours we were without standard electricity?  Quite well, especially compared to so many other families.  Here is a list of things we had in our arsenal of no power survival kit:

1.  A generator.  This is indispensable.  It kept the fridge running, so most of the food was saved.  It ran fans in the basement to cool us off.  It charged our electronics and kept the Fios working.  If you are anywhere near an area where a power outage may occur, please invest in a generator as soon as possible!  Even if it just sits in the garage for years (like this one), you will be eternally grateful that you have it when you need it.

2.  A gas stove.  This means that we could cook food by simply using a match to light the burners.  We also used a double boiler quite effectively to re-heat food.  Worked just like a microwave.  By having a means of cooking, we were able to maintain a fairly normal meal routine.

3.  A large basement.  We moved all the mattresses into the spacious basement which allowed us to sleep quite peacefully in the relative cool rather than spending hours tossing and turning in the muggy sauna that was the upper level.

4.  Knowledge of the septic system.  I always knew that if the power went out, you didn't flush the toilets.  I figured that was standard knowledge.  I have since discovered that not everyone knows that trick.  Luckily, my household did.  So there were no showers.  No dishwasher.  No water down the drain.  And very few flushes.  We got along fairly well (myself better than others since I had friends who let me use their shower) until Monday evening.  It was at that point that our power return estimate was pushed back to Saturday.  Tuesday morning the truck came out, and we had the septic pumped.  Thank goodness we did!  Apparently, we were right at the brink of backing up, and trust me, you do not want a backed up septic system.  After the septic was pumped, we were told we had about 5 days of normal usage before it would need to be pumped again, i.e. we could flush and shower in the remaining days without power with no fear of backing up the septic.

All in all, I have to say that the power outage had little to no real impact on our lives.  True, the kids were a bit bouncier and tempers a bit shorter.  I will always count us lucky, however, insofar as we did not have to seek alternate living accommodations.  We were able to live out our daily routine without too much hassle.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Most people who know me probably wouldn't peg me as extremely shy or insecure.  A bit more on the reserved side definitely, but definitely not an obvious recluse.  Which just goes to show how much a mask can fool the unsuspecting viewer.  I am shy.  I am terrified of meeting new people.  I'm still trying to figure out why.  My most recent theories are varied.  

A.  I'm scared of meeting people who may change my life forever because I like life the way it is (for the most part.)  

B.  I'm worried about being able to keep up with more friends than I already have.  It's really difficult to maintain close friendships with more than a few people, at least for me.  Which is partially why my circle of friends is so small.  Well, the friends I keep up with on a regular basis that is.  With the invention of Facebook and the like, it's been easier to keep up with all the people I don't see all the time.  And, of course, not talking to people for a while means that you have more to discuss when you do talk.  But I still worry about losing the close contact I have now if I add more people to that list.

C.  I think the biggest fear revolves around a rather huge insecurity on my part.  I know I'm not supposed to care what other people think of me (relatively speaking.)  I mean obviously I don't want to cease caring to the point where I sink into a murky pool of apathy and lax morals (not that I'm in any danger of that).  But I shouldn't care so much whether people like me or not.  Apparently, I'm a likable person.  I'm pretty sure I don't come across as someone who worries excessively about what other people are thinking (whether I admit it to myself or not.)  I can hold my own in a conversation with strangers, mostly by listening and responding vs. having a more active and vocal part.  Unless, of course, you get me going on my favorite topics like books, movies or Macs.  ;)  But anyways, I suppose it's some kind of defense mechanism, to a certain extent.  

I think it's safe to say that C is the most relevant and important issue at hand.  I've definitely gotten better at not needing to be part of the "popular" crowd.  I never was part of that group.  When I was growing up, I really wanted to be accepted by them - but we had relatively little in common.  I was definitely on a more innocent level than they were, for which I am forever thankful.  And once I made it to college, I didn't care so much about the popular crowd (especially after a year or two of observation.)  There is no way I'd want to be included in such a shallow group.  Of course, I'm sure they've all got good qualities of their own, but as a whole they seemed rather sad.  

So even though I've dismissed the "populars," I still struggle with acceptance in general.  I thank God for my friends who love me  just the way I am, even with all my odd quirks like a Barbie movie collection and the unstoppable desire to balance on sidewalk curbs.  But I worry too much that new groups of people will think I am strange, boring, or unsuitable for inclusion.  Rationally, I know that this fear is completely unfounded.  I shouldn't allow my past to infringe upon my future.  All I have to be is myself (even if I don't fully know who that is yet.)  

Of course, all this talk still fails to fully chase away the butterflies that invade my stomach whenever I prepare for a new experience.  My gut feeling is to burrow away into my hole so as to avoid any possibility of rejection.  And for a very long time, I willingly followed that feeling.  Due to the influence of my amazing friends, I am finally forcing myself to step outside my shell.  I know there's nothing to dread.  But I'm realizing that it's going to take a lot of time and effort to convince my irrational, emotional side of that fact.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crying Is Therapeutic

I don't normally burst out into tears unexpectedly.  Of course, I used to do it quite often back when I was a control-freak child.  The slightest change to the plan used to let loose the overflow of salty water. Crying is exhausting, and I think I used to view it as a sign of weakness.  Maybe that's why I avoided talking to people about things that bothered me.  Because I knew that if I did start expressing my thoughts, I wouldn't be able to get all the words out through my choked-up tears.  I seem to have gotten past that combination with years of practice and experience.  I can now explain what's going on, for the most part, without dissolving behind a mist.  I've also become an excellent letter writer.  I've discovered that putting my thoughts on paper allows me to get all the emotions and inter-connected thoughts out before I am interrupted by someone else's questions or comments.  I find it much easier to express my feelings through the written word rather than vocally.  Plus, there is a much lower risk of crying when I'm not immediately discussing whatever the problem may be.

All of which means that when I do start crying unexpectedly, it generally means something.  Generally, it's just that I am deeply connected to whatever I'm seeing or hearing (such as when I watched "For Greater Glory").  Which makes it disconcerting to me when I'm just sitting not thinking about anything in particular, and all of a sudden, the tears start flowing.  Partially, I'm reluctant to admit that I don't have as great a grasp of control on my life as I'd like to believe.  Mostly, though, I'm simply astonished by how much current life events are really shaking me.  I'm on the cusp of a new life adventure.  I'm moving 2000 miles from everyone I know.  I've lived in two places my entire life.  The thought of leaving my core group of friends and doubling the geographical distance between me and my family is overwhelming, to say the least.  Of course, it doesn't help matters that I've finally begun leaving my cave and started hanging out with people on a regular basis.  I'm making new friends, and I have to leave them all behind.

Of course, knowing that this move is the next step on God's plan for my life helps a lot.  As does the knowledge that I can place all my worry in His hands.  But I'm still human, and whether I choose to admit it or not, I'm worried . . . okay, we'll call it what it is.  I'm terrified.  Extremely excited (mostly) as well, but terrified nonetheless.  And I guess that's where the crying comes in.  Crying releases the pent-up emotions (oftentimes ones of which I am unaware) in a way that allows me to admit how weak and frail I am on my own.  They allow me to accept the fact that growing up and moving forward is painful.  They open the gate to humility and the chance, once more, to place my worries and cares in God's hands.  Now if I could only remember all of this while I'm crying.  Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Everything we do is a choice.  Our choices shape our future.  Our choices affect those around us.  Choices have unforeseen consequences.  One choice can change your life forever.  It is just as easy, however, to make small choices that lead towards the same life-changing alteration.  And you can always make the choice to change, no matter how far down a path you have gone.  

Why the musings on choices?  I was recently introduced to an Indie film titled "Ink" which illustrates the impact of our choices and how a single decision can cause an explosive chain of events as one link sparks the next into action.  I won't actually discuss the film per se because it should be watched before discussed, but I'd like to ramble for a few lines on the general topic of choices.

Some choices are simple and may not seem to hold much sway over your future such as what you eat for breakfast or how many movies you watch.  Other choices have a very visible impact such as deciding on a school or a new career or a vocation.  All choices, large or small, do guide the path of your life.  As human beings we were granted the gift of Free Will; it is up to us to choose our fate.  Of course, with the grace of God, these choices can be easier (or at least more bearable.)  

Everyone knows that you can choose to have a good or a bad day.  You can defy the discouraging and depressing vibes of the world around you and still go about with a smile on your face.  Or you can choose to join the ranks of sad and lonely people.  You can choose to join in someone's anger or revenge, or you can choose to attempt changing their point of view.  You can choose to hide away from the world, or you can choose to step out of your comfort zone and become part of the world.  Regardless, choices have consequences.  If you experience a great sorrow, you can choose to accept it and move on or to seek revenge on whoever caused the sorrow.  Just remember that two wrongs do not make a right.  Do not let the ill choices of someone else dictate how you choose to live your life.

Similarly, we can ourselves help guide the choices of those around us.  Ladies, your presence can lessen the foulness of language in the near vicinity.  Gentlemen, your presence can lessen the amount of fear in a potentially dangerous situation.  By setting an example in our own lives, we can be a positive role model for our family, friends and co-workers.  St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."  This statement applies to our entire life.  If we uphold the moral standard and strive to lead a holy life, we will stand out amidst the immorality of modernity.  And the more people are willing to choose the truth, the more our country and world will benefit.  

Finally, never underestimate the power of a genuine smile.  Even if your personal life seems to be in a forever downward spiral and the Devil is getting the upper hand, smile.  The Devil doesn't understand how we can have joy in the midst of suffering.  And you never know how much worse someone else's situation may be.  You might just be dealing with a broken dishwasher while they're coping with a sudden death in the family.  And remember, on the flip-side of all this, just because someone scowls at you across the hall or down the grocery aisle, it doesn't mean they're angry at you.  They're probably just having an off-day and forgot to choose to smile.  So smile back and say a quick prayer for them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hopeless . . . But Not Without Hope

I'm one of those people who falls in to the "hopeless romantic" category.  I drink in the beauty of a single rose.  I daydream about happily ever after.  And I watch an excessive amount of chick flicks.  Yes, I can actually admit to that fact.  Fair warning: This post probably won't have very many deep, intelligent, philosophical points.  Mostly it's the fruit of frustration at my occasional (some days more than others) discontent with my current lot in life.  Coupled with the daydreaming dynamic, it's a dangerous combination depending on the day.  Now that we've cleared that up, I'd just like to say that I know my vision of the whole "happily ever after" in reality is skewed.  The romance of on screen couples has given me too many unrealistic examples.  (Not that I regret watching them.  Sometimes they're the perfect cure for a funk.  Or a good laugh.  Or smiles.)  But I know in reality that no relationship falls into place that easily.  You don't go from hating someone one day to loving them the next.  You don't suddenly wake up and realize you're in love with your best friend at the same time that they do.  And you definitely don't decide to marry someone after knowing them for only the better part of a week, or a weekend as the case may be.  It's nice to delude yourself every once in a while that such fantastical happy endings actually exist, but I've discovered that a delusion too often entered becomes a habit extremely hard to break.

I've had my share of broken hearts and shattered dreams.  Apparently it is possible to force your own heart to break when you fall hard for someone who doesn't share the attraction.  I don't recommend it.  Especially if you're of the same hopeless romantic type that I am.  It takes years to recover.  The only plus I can think of is the benefit of lessons learned.  You take better care of who you allow yourself to love after you experience what it's like to have it all end in vain.  Although then you run into another problem, i.e. the case of closing yourself off from all possibility of heartache.  It's my uneducated opinion that true love only comes at a high price.  You have to be willing to jump, but it's never a bad idea to give yourself a parachute just in case.

And what is true love anyways?  I know it involves self-sacrifice.  A willing of the good for the other person.  A relationship based on true friendship.  The only perfect example we have is God's love for us Who gave His only Son to save the soul of all mankind.  Given such an impeccable standard to follow, we can only hope to achieve as near a likeness as our fallen nature allows.  With the grace of God, of course, anything is possible.  I know true love exists in the human race.  I see it in the face of a parent when they see their child.  I see it in the glance of a husband at his wife.  I see it in the actions of friends and family who truly care.  I know I am so blessed to be surrounded by so much true love in my life.

But none of this rational knowledge makes waiting for the fairy tale any easier.  Neither does it help the emotional side realize that fairy tale happily ever afters like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty don't actually exist.  At least not on a regular basis.  Maybe that's a bit cynical, but cynicism is one of the prices paid for dashed dreams.  Or maybe it's just realistic.  I mean, every girl dreams of waking up and finding her Prince Charming standing before her, but in reality that would be really creepy.

I know I can't explain this innate desire for the perfect storybook ending (or beginning).  I know that God has a plan for my life.  That He has a purpose for these deep emotions that bubble up constantly (although I've gotten really good at concealing them.)  So what do I do in the meantime?  I wait.  I listen.  I watch.  I try to be open and guarded at the same time.  I try to make friends without thinking further.  And I watch chick flicks as an outlet.  It's a comforting thought (regardless of how realistic such a thought may be) that the damsel in distress, in spite of her trials and sufferings (or maybe because of them), is always rescued in the end.  The kiss that breaks the magic spell.  The friend who becomes the dearest love.  The prince who banishes all the darkness.  The white knight who champions her in her distress.

And I wonder how I can have such feelings (for lack of a better world - darned English language) for someone I've never met.  I suppose they're just one way of God's telling me that I haven't erred in my vocational discernment.  I know, at some point (and only God knows when), I'll be walking down that aisle in a white dress towards my own happily ever after (with all the messy bits thrown in for good measure).  That one day I'll fulfill my call to marriage and motherhood.  I know I still have an enormous amount of growing to do as myself before I can even begin to think about dating someone, let alone marry them.  And I'm sure that they've got growing of their own to do.  So I remind myself of the rational explanations and succumb to the emotional lure of the fairy tale when rationality fails.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Letting Go

There are several ways to deal with anger, frustration, sorrow and the like.  Some people retaliate with force and sweep a path of destruction.  Some people crumble to the ground and bemoan their trials.  And some people don't seem affected at all.  These last often take the most dangerous approach to trouble.  They force their emotions aside as they deal with the problem at hand rationally.  While it is extremely useful to have a level head when dealing with trials, it can also be extremely dangerous if you never release your emotions.  I've seen first hand how burying your true emotions beneath layers of sturdy masks can damage and sometimes ruin relationships with everyone around you.  If you don't deal with the entire problem, you may fall in to the trap of developing a sub-conscious grudge that will grow and grow until you can't stop it.  But I also know how hard it is for these same people to let go of their control and just allow the emotions to take their course.  So here's my advice:

1.  Keeping a strong face in the midst of trials can be a good thing, especially if you have other people leaning on you for support.  Everyone falling to pieces solves nothing.  Just be careful of how many people you try to care for.  If you are a generous and loving person, it's often hard to say no or to even realize when you should.  You have to remember that in order to help them, you must also help yourself.  If that means taking 5 minutes or 5 days away from everyone else who leans on you, then so be it.  You don't want them to become annoying ticks rather than the friends and family you truly want to help and support.

2.  When you do take time for yourself, find an outlet.  Get the emotions out so that they don't continue to build up inside your heart.  I find an outlet through my writing.  Or talking to a very close friend.  Remember that a true friendship has give and take.  You rely on each other.  Just make sure that you deal with the emotions and your own pain in a timely fashion.  If you allow it to build up for too long, you often either forget it or become too overwhelmed.

3.  Be aware that the sorrows of your past (unless dealt with properly) will probably encroach on your future.  Some trial that you pushed aside years ago may suddenly resurface with vehemence.  So please face your trials.  Don't use comforting others as an excuse to hide once more behind the mask.  You needn't face them alone.  You can always find someone to help you, even if you can't see them.

Basically, don't bury your emotions and forget about them.  Push them aside if the present case calls for it, but don't forget to pull them back in and find closure regarding whatever the issues may be.  And if you have buried issues in your past, figure out how to solve them.  Do whatever you can to ensure that your heart is no longer a potentially hazardous waiting zone for grudges and thoughts of revenge or depression.  Seek out the light, and you will find it sooner or later.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Silver Linings

You know those days when everything seems to go wrong?  Your alarm didn't go off.  Your fridge is empty.  Or your car just won't start for the third weekend in a row?  (Guess which one didn't happen today.)  I've decided that there are quite a few ways to deal with said problems.  You could just jump off the deep end and run around screaming and cursing the fates.  You could get extremely frustrated by how late you're going to be or how much money this repair is going to be.  You could just crawl in to a hole and curl into a fetal position as you suck your thumb and bemoan your sorry existence - the whole "woe is me" angle.  But none of these outlets are fruitful or helpful in any way, shape or form.  Sure, it might give you some small pleasure to curse your vehicle for breaking down yet again, but it won't help fix the problem.  Besides, it wastes energy.  So here's my solution.

Take ten seconds and just breathe.  In and out.  Allow yourself time to fully grasp the situation before tackling it head on.  Remember that broken cars are the reason we have car insurance.  So that when you need a tow truck, it's covered.  You don't have to delve into your pocket for loose change.  This is also why you have an emergency fund in your bank account.  Unexpected (and often costly) delays happen all the time.  Your best bet is to be prepared for the inevitable.  Sort of like bringing an umbrella on a sunny hike just to make sure it doesn't actually rain.  Of course, car repairs are just a part of life.  No use getting angry and frustrated over them.

So, now that you've established the problem and called the tow truck, you're probably wondering how in the world you're going to get all the places you have to be.  Most immediately it's the mechanic to talk to them about your car.  This is where the true friends and Good Samaritans show up.  They lend you their car with no questions asked.  You make it to the mechanics and back safely, confident that your vehicle is in good hands.  Other friends are more than willing to give you a ride places such as Mass.  Suddenly, your life looks less and less bleak.  After all, the sun is shining.  You got a day off to relax.  This could very well be God's way of saying "slow down."  

And that's where the silver lining comes into the picture.  What seems at first only an annoying problem transforms into numerous opportunities for gentle reminders that He's in control.  That you do have friends who love you.  Friends who would drop everything at the slightest call for help.  Friends who you would do exactly the same thing for were they in the same position.  So once you've got all your immediate troubles sorted out, take another ten seconds (or longer) and be thankful for the many blessings.  Your car will be fixed.  Your troubles have dissipated with the help of many friends.  And God has once more shown that you are not alone.

So, it is up to you to choose the silver lining.  Every situation has one, no matter how dark and dreary the cloud of trouble may appear.  You can choose to waste time, energy and your life in being frustrated by every problem that appears.  Or you can choose to offer up the frustrations and know that everything will work out for the best.  You can work through the problems rather than ignore them, and along the way, you will discover blessings you never knew you had or had failed to fully appreciate.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I'll Be A Old Maid

No young girl wants to be labeled an "old maid."  Perhaps that's why we have become so desperate to have a man in our lives, regardless of whether he is "the one."  I have to admit that I was in the boat with all the other optimistic, naive young women who entered college with the thought "I'll be getting married when I graduate."  That wasn't in God's plan for me, at least not yet.  It's been a long road, and a difficult one, but I'm at last beginning to be content with my singlehood (even rejoicing in it occasionally.)  I'd like to take a few moments to pass on my experience and thoughts on the subject to all you readers out there who may be going through this or know somebody going through it.

I've decided that there are a few steps to be taken when one looks at one's future, especially regarding the vocation of marriage.  I would like to outline them for you in the hope that together we can determine some of the cause behind womankind's inevitable tendency towards romantic illusions and heartbreak.

Step 1:  Discerning your vocation.  This does not mean figuring out where you want to work after graduation.  A vocation is your life's work, your calling, what God intended you for.  The most common distinction within vocations is that between the religious life and the married life, both of which are amazing vocations.  But your vocation could also be to the single life.  The process of discernment can take many years, even decades, and it won't work unless you are completely open to every possibility.  Too many people (myself included) spend their lives searching for something to complete them, but they search on their own and refuse to let God take control and show them their path.  It is a scary thing to offer all your hopes and dreams to God and place all your trust in Him.  And it's incredibly difficult, but once you do, everything will fall into place as He reveals His wondrous plans for your life.  

Step 2:  Where to look?  For the sake of this post, I'm going to focus on those who are called to the married life.  I currently believe that is my vocation, although I'm still working at the complete discernment.  In the meantime, what should you do?  Suppose you don't have a boyfriend (or any possible prospects).  Does this mean that you will end an old maid?  NO!  As a dear friend recently said, "If you're not ready, and he is, God won't bring you together.  If you're ready, and he is not, God won't bring you together.  Only when God knows you are both ready will you be brought together."  While you are single, your sole purpose is to draw closer to God and develop your own spiritual life.  The vocation of all people is to strive for sainthood.  As a single person, you have advantages that married people do not.  You can spend more time in prayer and meditation than a mother with seven children or a working father.  Use this time to become the best person you can be.  For in order to give yourself to someone else completely, you must first know who you are.  And that is no easy task.

Step 3:  Don't despair!  Too many young women fall into the depths of despair when they aren't married by age 23.  Believe me, I was in that boat once too.  It seems that everyone around you is happily in love, and you are left out in the cold.  What is it that those girls have that you don't?  Are you ugly?  Boring?  Unlovable?  I've asked myself all these questions at one time or other, but thankfully with the help of God and my closest friends, I have determined that the answer to all those questions is an emphatic NO.  Just because you don't have someone yet, doesn't mean that you won't in the future.  Focusing on what we don't have causes us to lose sight of all that we do possess.  If you spend too much time daydreaming about Mr. Right, you will miss spectacular opportunities in your daily life.  He'll come when he's supposed to (or near enough).  Don't spend your life wishing upon a fairy tale.  

Step 4:  Stop looking.  I'm sure you've all had the trouble of something bordering on a pathological search for a guy.  Or close enough.  The checking of left hands for rings.  The glances to see if he's got a girlfriend with him.  The subconscious appraisal of his potential.  All of this simply works negatively.  A) You're automatically classifying every guy you see, making snap judgments.  B) You set yourself up for heartache because inevitably all of the guys are taken or whatever.  You have to stop thinking "Is he the one?" every time you see a guy.  And this goes double when you make friends with a guy.  There is nothing worse than analyzing a new acquaintance for his marriageable potential.  Treat him as a friend, nothing more and nothing less.  If something is meant to happen, let it blossom out of the friendship.  Don't try to force love to grow in a hothouse rather than using the clean air of nature.  If you can stop thinking about every guy as a potential boyfriend, and instead think of them just as potential friends, your life (and your heart) will be a lot easier.  

Step 5:  Guard your heart.  Don't leap at the first opportunity just because you've been waiting for so long.  Don't allow yourself to enter a relationship which is detrimental to your health, whether it be your spiritual, your physical, your emotional, or your mental health.  We've all seen the movies with love at first sight, but I've come to believe that such a thing does not exist.  Not true love anyways.  Like at first sight I can do.  But true love must come from a deep understanding of the other person, which understanding only comes about through true friendship.  By staying away from bad relationships, you protect your heart for your future spouse.  I was once told that every time you break up with someone, your heart rips in two.  If you go through relationship after relationship, by the time you finally find your spouse, your heart is missing large portions.  Be cautious (but not afraid).  Love is about taking chances and risking everything, but generally when a person takes life-changing chances, they weigh a few of the potential pros and cons.  Don't let your passion drown out your reason.  Passion and reason should work harmoniously together.  Believe me, your heart will thank you in the long run if you let reason take the precedence.

I could go on, but I believe that these are the most important things to remember.  Above all, do not lose hope.  God has a calling for everyone, and if your vocation is marriage, He will not let you die without fulfilling it.  Keep your mind and heart open to His will.  Strive towards sainthood.  Keep your eyes open to the world around you.  Cherish and care for your friendships.  And eventually, probably when you least expect it, you'll find that the love of your life has appeared before you, creeping on soft and slow through the guise of friendship blossoming to true love.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Waiting Room

Carla slowly turned around as she took in her new surroundings.  She stood in a stark white enclosed room bordered by innumerable doors.  Each door gleamed a different color, and a small sign labeled the contents therein.  Career.  Family.  School.  Travel.  Couch Potato.  Leech.  Hole In Sand.  Party Lights.  Cardboard Box.  Childhood.  Friends.  Alternate Life.  The choices seemed endless as she continued to swivel in her comfortable chair.  So this is it.  This is where my future is decided.  How do I know which door to choose?
A gentle voice behind her caused her to jump up.  "You don't know.  Alone, all you can do is guess.  Each door leads to a possible future.  Whether it is your next destination on the eternal plan, you cannot know without help."
Carla was positive she hadn't spoken aloud, but she turned towards the voice and asked, "What is this help?"  She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the shining light and called out, "I can't see you.  How do I know you're there?"
"You have other senses than sight, have you not?  Senses that course through your entire being beyond the simple external five.  What do these senses tell you?"
Carla closed her eyes for a moment, trying to discern the deeper trust in her faith of the divine.  "That You exist.  That You are here with me even though I cannot see Your face.  And that You are the answer to all of my troubles.  Please.  Tell me what to do."
She felt rather than saw His smile as He said, "Carla, my child, it is simple.  Follow Me.  That is what you must do."
Her heart sank as she complained, "But what should I do specifically?  Which of these doors opens onto the next step for my path?  How do I decide?"
"Talk it out for Me, and you will realize the answer you have always had within your soul."
"But it would be so much easier if You would just tell me."
"Since when has My way been about the easy way out?" He admonished her.
Carla bowed her head in submission.  She rubbed her temples and began to work it out.  "I suppose the first step is discernment of your vocation.  Check.  Mine's marriage and motherhood.  But I can't just jump through the Family door.  I haven't even got the meager beginnings of my own as of yet."
"Correct so far.  This room, then, is the 'waiting' room.  It is where you discover what your purpose on life is between childhood and fulfilling your vocation."
"How long am I stuck in this interim?"  He did not answer.  "I suppose that's for You to know and me to find out."  Again she felt His smile and groaned inwardly.  I always knew He had a strange sense of humor.  But she stopped because she remembered how He could read her thoughts.  "Ok.  So I have to decide, or rather discover, what my interim singlehood is for."  Carla sat back down and tucked her knees under her chin.  The door choices swirled before her closed eyes as she tried to figure out the correct decision.  "I don't know!" she finally cried out.  "At least, I can't know without Your help.  Please help me!"  Her prayer for guidance did not go unanswered.
"All you need do is trust My path and stay alert for the signs which I will send.  They will guide you through the days ahead."
"But how will I know what these signs are?" Carla asked, but she received no answer.  Trial and error, I suppose.  Mixed with a bit of prayer and a large helping of faith.  The next time she opened her eyes, Carla was in her bed once more.  A car horn blew outside as birds heralded the new day.  As she prepared for work, her dream played over in her mind.  "Fine," she whispered.  "I'll try to watch."  As she ran out the door, Carla had no idea how much faith in God's plan could change her life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blind Faith

When God basically hands you a notice signed and delivered saying “This is the next step,” it’s incredible.  Inevitably, however, that’s also the time when the devil will put doubts in the back of your mind.  Should things be falling into place this easily?  Should I really be abandoning all the possibilities surrounding me right now?  Am I really supposed to jump without knowing why?
Lately a few people have been questioning my decision to attend law school in the fall (as well as the particular school I chose.)  First off, I suppose I should illustrate the reasons behind my decision.
Don’t ever make a bet with God.  If you say you will NEVER do something, most likely, you’ll end up doing just that.  I would never have considered law school unless, maybe, if I was ditzy enough to believe real-life law school was anything like Legally Blonde.  But due to strong suggestion from several people, I grudgingly agreed to take the LSAT and go from there.  I “studied”, i.e. basically took 2 practice tests and looked through a prep-book, for three weeks before the exam.  Taking the actual test was amazing.  I wasn’t stressed even though everyone else around me was freaking out like, I don’t know, their entire life was riding on the test.  When I got my scores back, I was impressed.  I’d done pretty well, especially considering my preparation, or rather the lack thereof.  So the next step, since God had given me a good score, was to actually apply to school.  I put it off for a few months until I finally submitted 4 applications in January.  At that time, I said if God wanted me at law school, would He please give me a full ride so that I would know for sure.  Three weeks later, I heard back from my current destination school with a full scholarship offer.  In the moment that I read the exciting words, I knew deep down that this was where God was calling me next.  I still can’t explain it, and I probably never will be able to do so.
I am not excited about law school.  I have no clue why God wants me there.  I know He’s got a plan, but I don’t know anything but the immediate destination.  A detailed layout would be lovely, but I have to simply leap on faith.  I know that this is what’s next.  Maybe it’s a trial by fire (or heat, as the case may be.)  Maybe it’s a test of faith.  Maybe it’s a chance for me to develop my faith further.  Maybe it’s a 3 year commitment.  Maybe it’s only for 6 months.  God alone knows.  All I can do is pray for the strength to keep my faith in Him.
Anyways, like I mentioned before, when you’re following God’s plan, inevitably there will occur numerous “road blocks” that the Devil sends your way.  In my case, there are the people who remind me (with every good intention, of course) that I don’t “have” to go.  Or the people who question my choice of school because it’s insanely difficult to get a job of any sort after graduation with a diploma from there.  Or who question the choice of law school in general if I really want to study or pursue something else entirely.  Trying to explain to a very realistic and prudent person the reasons why I’m heading to school gets difficult because all I can say is that I know the Holy Spirit is guiding me there.  I know that’s enough, but it’s still hard.  
Furthermore, what so many people fail to realize is that I don’t care about having an amazing work career.  I know that my vocation is to the married life and motherhood whenever God decides that’s the next step.  To get from point A to point B, I’m perfectly content working as a secretary or a nanny.  Sure, I’d love to make a nice bundle of money each year, but it’s not necessary.  I know that having a good income is extremely helpful, especially if you’re living on your own.  But it’s not the most important thing in life.  Of course, for a guy it’s probably different.  They need to set up the good job so that they can support any future dependents.  
I am intending to research other graduate schools and take the next year to study for the GRE, take it as soon as possible, and apply to schools for a Masters program in English.  I would absolutely love to study more literature, but I can’t afford to just begin paying boat loads of money for classes.  So perhaps that’s another reason why I’m headed to law school.  I can live basically for free for the next year and delve deeper into my other school possibilities.
I try not to question God’s plan, but I can’t help it sometimes.  Especially when, just a few short weeks before I’m set to leave, I begin making friends and realizing just how amazing life could be if I stayed in my current area.  But maybe that’s the point.  Maybe I begin these friendships now so that if I return, I’ve already got my foot in the door so to speak.  If I’m being honest, I’m slightly terrified.  I’m moving 1400 miles from my family and 1100 miles from my closest friends to a place where I don’t know anybody to a part of the country with weather I absolutely dread.  There are so many specifics that have yet to be settled.  The only way I am still cheerful about this next step is that I still believe, without a doubt, that it’s where God is sending me.  I know that everything will work out, but knowledge does not always dispense with fear.  And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Pushing forward into the unknown despite the fear in order to sincerely and truly place complete trust in God.  
Everyone talks about how much I’ll love it down there.  How much good I can do as a Catholic female lawyer in our modern society.  How well I will do in my studies.  How proud they are of me.  How much they believe in my impending achievements.  How impressed they are by how blessed my law school plans have been.  All I know is that I’m leaving everything I have ever known and beginning something entirely new.  And it scares me so much.  So, to anyone who actually finished reading this, please pray for me.  Knowing God’s plan is one thing.  Having the courage and strength to follow it blindly is something else entirely.  I know there is so much I have yet to learn about who I really am and what my life on earth is for.  I simply hope and pray that I can continue my trust in God and keep my eyes and heart open to whatever plans He sends my way.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Practice of Law

This is my personal statement for my law school applications:

From an early age, I despised injustice.  I believed then and believe now in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  I once believed that, just as in fairy tales, the wicked were always caught and punished accordingly.  I thought that the good always triumphed over the evil.    I believed the good to act as truly heroic men should, namely with a sense of honor and respect for their fellow man even as they dealt out their judgment.  As I have grown up, I realize more and more how little the world understands of true justice, i.e. the quality of being fair and reasonable, tempered with mercy and compassion.  Too often mankind deals out the harsh and swift fist of punishment and retribution without recollecting the innate worthiness of each human being.  This harsh attitude, however, is a product of the era because as crime increases and our patience wears thin, the methods and judgments become more merciless.  I believe that a crime should be punished; however, that punishment should be accompanied by a firm but compassionate understanding of the condemned person’s dignity.  
In the practice of law, I would strive towards uncovering the truth and presenting it without qualms.  I have heard for some that the client comes first, even before the truth.  This seems selfish and arrogant on the part of the lawyer and their clients.  They take the determination of the full truth into their own hands, modifying the code of honorable justice to fit their own personal uses.  While some people may attempt to cover up the less savory facts of their client’s involvement, I believe that the whole truth should be stated.  If man is to truly judge one another, all of the facts must be presented without remiss.  Both the good and the bad should be taken into account.  In some cases, there is a clear verdict concerning the criminal and the victim.  Other cases require a great deal of research and presentation from both sides.  In all of this, however, a worthy lawyer should balance the good and bad of his client, presenting a truthful story to the judge and jury.  Hiding vital or non-vital information from the court is the same as lying.  In order to arrive at the truly just decision, a judge and jury must have all the information.  Thus, a lawyer who intends to uphold the banner of justice must make the pursuit of the whole truth his life’s work.
As a lawyer, your work is to defend your client and gain the best settlement possible.  If you have a lost cause where your client is clearly the just recipient of punishment, you should strive for a fitting punishment.  A punishment that is neither excessive nor too lenient is the just reward for evil acts.  By presenting the truth with a favorable emphasis on the better parts, a lawyer may achieve a settlement nearer true justice.  No sane person enjoys inflicting pain upon another human being; however, in this fallen world, pain and punishment are unfortunate necessaries for creating a safer world for us all.  In the practice of law, I believe one must follow a type of tough love for one’s clients.  This is a relationship where you act in the client’s true best interest, even if it includes unpleasant retribution.  In order to truly do your best, you must place the truth above the personal qualms or fictitious claims of a client.  
This, then, is my understanding of how a good lawyer should act.  In my pursuit of law, then, I would endeavor to seek and understand the truth.  My desire is to better the world around me through example and hard work.  In law, I would give a voice to the voiceless, a just support to the defenseless, and a compassionate punishment to those deserving of retribution.  Throughout my studies in law school, I would seek a deeper and fuller understanding of the law itself and of the truth.  
In this pursuit of the truth, I have already spent four years of dedicated study.  My education in the liberal arts included a thorough instruction in philosophy through which I can see the absolute truths and work towards the practical application in a specific situation.  Having thus molded my mind towards the absolutes, I can more easily and readily pursue an education which furthers the practice of the truth.  This, then, is my reasoning behind the pursuit of law.  I desire to provide true justice to the world around me and aid my fellow man in their search for the truth.  Through the practice of law, I should be able to uphold the truth in the face of doubt and bring clarity into the darkness of deceit and confusion.  Ultimately, as a lawyer, I should endeavor in every aspect of my life to carry the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.