Thursday, April 26, 2018

There'll Be Days Like This

Earlier this week was rough.

I've been reflecting on it, and I've yet to put my finger on why it was so hard. I mean, I've had really hard days in the past. I've lived days steeped in grief and anxiety up to my eyeballs. I've received horrible news. I've put my foot in my mouth in a spectacular fashion that damaged close friendships. None of that happened and still it was really difficult.

Here's the saga:

It started out as a typical Tuesday. No visitors were coming, so James and I just got to toot around on our own. I had a loose plan for the day: gym, shower, pediatrician, nap (for James), ecumenical summit in the evening. I had my food ready to go so that I wouldn't be too hungry while we're out and about. It was raining but it was off to a good start.

Midmorning, I changed the plan and decided to go to the gym after the doc because James put himself to sleep in his crib for his first morning nap (win!). The day started to unravel when we went to the doctor. 

I called last week to ask 3 questions over the phone but they couldn't put me in touch with a nurse or our doctor, so I called back on Monday to make an appointment for Tuesday. When I arrived on Tuesday morning (on time, with a 3 month old, in the rain, just to give myself a little props), they told me they had me in the system for Wednesday, not Tuesday. They were able to work me in for an appointment at 2:30. 

Change of plans: lunch, doctor (again), gym, summit. 

We went home, James napped a little more and came back at 2:30 to absolutely NO PARKING. While I circled the parking lot several times to no avail, I called the office to let them know we were there and I was put on hold for so long that we were walking in by the time I was connected. 

Then we waited for over 45 minutes to see the nurse practitioner. 

I was so frustrated, I almost started to cry. While we were there, we found out that James has lost 4 ounces since his last appointment. And he might be lactose intolerant. More almost crying. Then I got in the car and actually cried on the phone with my husband and my mom. And I cancelled my evening plans.

I felt like depsite my efforts to nurse James, my body was failing me and my son. I felt exhausted and belittled. I felt like my time was disrespected and my plans were futile. I felt like God was offering Grace, and I was incapable of receiving it. 

Ever had a day like that? 

It reminded me of being on mission trips, when simple plans go awry, and when your efforts alone can't get the job done. When this happens, you have to take a few deep breaths, pray and regroup with your team. You have to pause long enough to remember that it's okay that it's not okay. Deep breath. It's good to admit that it's so hard. Deep breath. It is not for naught. Deep breath. Remember what you're grateful for.

My two favorite men.
Thank the Lord I have the best teammate ever, my husband Patrick. Thank you God that our son is alive and healthy and that we have the means to help him with formula and doctors and lots of snuggles. Praise the Lamb for our incredibly supportive friends and family that always lend a hand. 

Last but not least, thank goodness that rainy Tuesdays always end.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Netflix, Makeup, Texting & Lent

Holy Week is here!

I was a newly postpartum mommy when this awesome preparatory season began so I only started fully engaging Lent about halfway through. However, when I began brainstorming prayerful sacrifices, it made me remember my most fruitful sacrifices. 

What makes a fruitful Lenten sacrifice? In my experience, prayerful reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of my relationship with God and an honest admittance of what's standing in the way of making it deeper. What virtues do I need to grow in? Humility? Trust? Prudence? These questions go a long way in prayer, and they led to my top three most powerful seasons of Lent.

3. Netflix (and all other video content)
In the middle of college, I was STRUGGLING with many things, including self-isolation and restlessness. In my pre-Lenten reflection, I realized that I avoided positive social situations and silence of all kind by staying CONSTANTLY plugged in. I mean, I watched TV day and night. I was always on the computer. Netflix and YouTube videos while doing homework. Netflix and YouTube videos while going to sleep; I never, ever stopped. I was avoiding serious tsunamis of anxiety that were always right around the corner, and the more I avoided, the larger the tsunamis became. So, with a counselor's help and a priest's guidance, I stopped avoiding the silence. I read, I cried, I prayed, I made coffee dates with great women, I slept, I healed. 
Fruit: Though I got crushed once or twice by the tsunamis that I had been trying to keep at bay, within weeks my anxiety had immensely improved. I lost my fear of silence, and I discovered Divine Intimacy for the first time

2. Makeup
My first year as a FOCUS missionary was similar to the process of transforming grapes into wine - sweet, crushing and transforming all at the same time. As Lent began, my heart was aching and I was more vulnerable with the Lord than I ever had been. I was in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus during His Agony, and in many ways, I was experiencing my own. And I was completely set on convincing everyone around me that I was fine. The people closest to me were not convinced at all. I did not need to expose the secrets and ache of my heart to the world, but I did need to detach myself from makeup and the facade of having it all together and being a-okay. To date, this was the hardest sacrifice I had ever made, because from middle school up until then, I could count on one hand the number of times I left the house without wearing makeup. At one point, I cried for feeling so insecure, and stomped my feet on the ground, yelling, "I feel awful! I don't want anyone to know! I want my mascara, I want my lipgloss!" 
Fruit: I was deeply uncomfortable with myself as I was -- I thought I had been vulnerable with Christ before, but it was time to go much, much deeper. The Lord revealed lifelong wounds and gently started to heal them during this time of enormously vulnerable prayer. I had already become tolerant of silence, but now I began to dive into Silence as the Lord's love language. I detached myself from the need to wear makeup, and became okay with not being okay, even if other people could tell. I listened to the Lord whispering Truths in my ear, including that my Beauty has nothing to do with makeup. Better than listening, I began to believe it.

1. Texting my boyfriend
For this one, I have to give a shout out to my friend Lindsey. In 2014, Lindsey shared with me the story of how she and her husband discerned marriage, and one Lent, they did not communicate with each other at all except by letter-writing. Intense? Yes. Purifying? You bet! So in 2016, when I started to date Patrick long distance and Lent approached, I proposed a junior option: that we stop communicating via text message. During Lent, we were challenged to make time for each other in different ways every day. We had standing Skype dates 2 times a week and called each other at free times during the rest of the week, writing letters when we couldn’t talk on the phone.
Fruit: Freeing ourselves from texting gave us the clarity to see that we really wanted to take the time for each other. Because we did not have the instant gratification of texting, the anticipation of our calls was incredibly sweet and every time we talked, we were present and intentional with one another. The hiatus from texting gave us the space in our prayer lives to really listen to God and His call, in our case, to marriage. It kept our relationship from escalating too quickly and simultaneously allowed us to get to know each other really well through our phone calls and letters. Hands down, this was the most fruitful Lenten sacrifices of either of our lives.

It's never too late in the Lent go all in for your relationship with the Lord. Even reflecting on the Grace I received in the past opened my heart to the Lord in the present, and who doesn't want that?

What's the best Lent you've ever had?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Let Go and Let God

This is a guest post from my sister, Elizabeth! You can read more by her at Startling the Day:

In this culture of worshiping busyness, we forget how predictable our lives can be. Those of us who are of the traditional workforce (teachers, engineers, accountants, receptionists, etc) know which building in which we will stand/sit/run around in most given days. Let's not take that for granted.

My husband (an engineer) and I (a teacher of English language learners in elementary schools in Virginia) just returned from a visit to our lovely mish sister, Katie. I left our two day trip with a better understanding of how my baby sister (muhahaha!) spends her mishily mish mish days with FOCUS on Harvard's campus. In a word: everywhere.

Missionaries live in the world, but work especially hard not to live of the world. We met students who draw from the soul-enriching energy that the FOCUS missionaries bring to Harvard.  They know who they can rely on and I'm proud my sister is one of those.

So many of the sacrifices they make are obvious: they have to fundraise their own salaries, they give God the decision about where they will live, they have to reach out to complete strangers on a college campus, and they spend their days making themselves vulnerable to Satan's most precise hits.

That being said, the first thing I realized when I got home: I know where I will be tomorrow. Thank you, God! 

I have never been more grateful to know exactly what to expect from tomorrow. We take for granted the lack of uncertainty in our day. 

"Where are we going?" "Can you be here in 10 minutes?" "I'm not sure if I'll be there then, can I call you when I'm ready?" "What do you want to do?" "What else?" 

Those questions have answers in "the real world." Missionaries have to let go of control and prevent that frustration that rushes over (me, at least) like a wave when teetering between decisions. God drives this bus, after all. Let's accept that and praise Him that He lets us think we have a hand on the steering wheel.

Thank you, Katie and the other Harvard FOCUS missionaries, for giving me another glimpse of God's wisdom!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Favorite Things From This Week

Yesterday and today have been totally awesome days with totally awesome conversations. I took a psychology class in college where the professor described this ideal work state of an artist, known as “being in flow” when the work flows from them because of the perfect level of challenging-ness and concentration. I think I’ve been in “flow” with Christ and Evangelization for the last two days. God is working in my conversations and interactions with these women and giving me glimpses of His eternal Joy.

Here we have it! My favorite things from this week:

I loved walking into the chapel and running into students praying together as boyfriend and girlfriend because they want their relationship rooted in Christ.

I loved when a conversation about adventures during winter break led a student to tell me how they came to build a growing, personal relationship with Christ through prayer, fellowship and the sacraments.

I loved getting to a level of openness in conversation where a student trusted me enough to ask, “How do you love someone who hates you?” and I loved when the Holy Spirit reminded me of a homily from 8 years ago which exemplifies the answer

I loved when multiple students asked me when bible studies are and how they can get more involved.

I loved when students, inspired by the SEEK conference, told me how they have chosen to devote more time to prayer and mass, and asked how they can help their friends to know the truth as well.

I loved when I rescheduled my holy hour and make my way to the chapel, only to find a student who needed to talk about an important upcoming decision.

I loved when I went from an “art date” at the museum to a lunch date to a coffee date to a study break date to a group coffee date to the chapel to teach someone how to pray more dynamically

I loved when the snow cancelled my bible studies but the girls met anyway because they wanted to share in fellowship. And I loved even more when students rearranged their schedule to have a make up study at a different time in the week

God is good! All the time! 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Debt to You (and scheduled repayment)

This is my confession: I have avoided writing for this blog for many months.

Thus, it is time for some true accountability. At the very least, I owe you writings about the following:

·      SEEK 2015
·      The March for Life 2015
·      The Start of a New Semester
·      Confessions of Winter: Why You Shovel Early
·      How to Make the Most of Lent

I promise that I will take an hour every Tuesday (Pew’s-day) to write and post articles.

I hope you can help keep me accountable to this!

God bless,


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Notes from Prayer: I Can't Save Anyone

In the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples ask, "'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For men, this is impossible, but for God all things are possible,'" (Matt. 19:23-30).

About two months ago, I was praying in the lower chapel of St. Paul's, asking God to prepare my heart to serve the students that I was about to meet for the first time. I had just left the comfort of my family home to move to Boston, Massachusetts in order to begin serving as a FOCUS missionary at Harvard. Over the summer, I got a lot of positive feedback about my decision to answer God's call to serve as a missionary. I was and am very flattered by the compliments, but sometimes the content of the compliment didn't sit well. Some people would say something along the lines of, "Wow! Go save some souls!" and I would seldom know how to respond. When I read this Gospel passage that day (and keep in mind that it was the end of the summer), this is what came to mind:

We, as missionaries, do not save anyone. If we think of life as a pool, we are not the lifeguard, but rather, we are the lifeguard floatation tubes: we are instruments and we are symbols and, when we do our jobs well, we point to the True Savior, the ultimate Lifeguard.

What good is a tube that breaks? How helpful is the buoy that floats away from the one who saves? It is only when a lifeguard can employ the tube as it was made to be employed that it can have any part in saving a life because a floatation device has no inherent saving power. Any trained lifeguard is MORE THAN capable of saving a drowning swimmer without tools; how much more true is this for the all-powerful, ever living God?

We are called to bear witness to God, to point to Christ always and to be moved and animated by God, who rescues all. My prayer became more specific following this realization:

"God, please draw me closer to You and allow me to be a helpful instrument of your Love." 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Greatest Of These Is Love

Typical Ave Maria sunset... Not too shabby, eh?
This summer I spent 5 1/2 weeks in Ave Maria, FL with 400 fellow missionaries at New Staff Training for our temporary vocation as FOCUS missionaries. For those of you who have never visited this booming metropolis, Ave Maria, which is about 40 minutes east of Naples in SW Florida, reminds many of its visitors and residents of the sets of Pleasantville or The Truman Show.

Despite the idyllic setting, most of the missionaries I know (including Yours Truly), experienced at least one spiritual crisis during our time there, because we realized how cluttered and chaotic and imperfect the "streets" of our interior lives were. About three weeks into training, I spent 5 days panicking because reflection and prayer had led me to realize my shortcomings, not only in loving others, but in accepting love from God and His children here on earth.

As human beings, we are made in the image and likeness of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Catholic teaching describes the Holy Spirit as the fruitful communion between God the Father and God the Son: the transcendence of love between the Father and the Son is so great that it is its own person: the Holy Spirit. 

I began to understand Love as God made it, as the full gift of self and full receipt of another. For my adult life I had focused on how to best give love, but I had actively rebuffed others' attempts to give their love to me. My insistence to give but not receive was reflected in my relationship with God, and my eyes were finally opened to the things in my life that I had withheld from Him. By refusing to receive His Love in parts of my life and heart that I thought were ugly, unfit, and in need of improvement before I could show them to the Lord, I was actively withholding my Love from Him and from others. 

1 Corinthians 13:3 says, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but do not have love, I gain nothing." There I was, about to give up control over at least 2 years of my life  in service of God, realizing that if I didn't make a change in my life, it would all be for naught. 

Only in opening my heart to God and others, in loving and allowing others to love me, will the mission I have been called to by God be fulfilled. There is no other way. The broken heart that is open to the Love of Christ is the heart that will be healed; it will radiate with particular light that invites others to discover the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  

Since that week of crisis in training, the Lord has opened my eyes to His greatest gift, which is an essential part of our human experience; Love changes lives. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta humbly reminds us, "Not all of us can do great things; only small things with Great Love."

"And these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love," (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Harvard '14-'15: Loving through Laughter since June 2014