Sunday, December 25, 2011

Miracles of Midnight Mass

So, what exactly happened at Midnight Mass tonight?  I've been totally looking forward to the moment since Advent started.  I've been staying faithful to the morning hours (an Advent promise I made) and I stuck with an Advent Calendar and Jesse Tree with my fourth graders.  (It's completely awesome to learn about the Old Testament super heroes!)

So, I spent my Advent preparing my heart to welcome Jesus and I was going to go to Midnight Mass tonight and KNOW Jesus. I would understand deeper the Mystery of His coming, see something comparable to Mary's joy and awe and it was going to be this awesome spiritual experience.

Then, reality happened. I was completely distracted by stupid and interesting things...it was too hot in church, someone kept passing gas (seriously) There was a girl two rows in front of me that looks exactly like a girl who I'm seeking reconciliation with... Despite trying to focus my mind on this abstract "Christmas tingle," I couldn't stop thinking about struggles and challenges: friends who I won't be with this Christmas and I miss terribly, Christians who are persecuted in other countries, the homeless, and those I served in Haiti and how they won't have the fancy dinners, the gifts, etc.

Despite what I might have imagined for myself (tears, being so moved in front of the glory of Christ's birth, peaceful radiance, etc) I received something so much more real and perfect from God at Midnight Mass.

As I sang "Joy to the World"...this is what Jesus' birth was...joy for the WHOLE world.  The people in Haiti, the homeless, my friends who have denied religion, the guy farting in the pew in front of me.  (haha.  sorry.)

My life has been a journey of discovering if Jesus being on Earth REALLY makes a difference or not.  Does He bring light and meaning to our heart's desire or not?  If nothing else, I left Mass today renewed to serve my neighbor (local and worldwide) and share fearlessly the worth of following this Jesus character because only He will give true fulfillment and peace.

I'm not sure exactly how this will all pan out---I mean, persecuted Christians...how am I going to help them???  But I KNOW that through my continued daily "yes" I, just like Mary, will be able to respond to whatever He needs from me and in that, can change the world! 

Oh Mary, on this day of the feast of the birth of your Son, may I be filled with the wonder and awe of God-made flesh for me.  May my heart be filled with gratitude and confidence in in my Father's love that can never end.  Pray for me, Mary, and gaze on those whom I love, especially those who I cannot physically spend today with, those who cannot glorify your Son publicly, those who are hungry today, and those who suffer from despair, boredom, or addiction. On this Christmas day, may they be given some comfort that only our Father can give. Thank you, Mary for your fearless 'yes' that changed the world and saved my life. Amen.

Merry Christmas to my Grandpa and Grandma Kersey!  Missing you most of all!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Seven Wonders of My World

On the recent topic of people rocking my world, there are a few specific people that God has chosen to lighten my load and my path.  As a Thanksgiving post, I'm listing my "Seven Wonders" as far as the people God has blessed me with.

I love talking about my friends and the groups I am a part of because I could have never planned how they would enrich my life and constantly surprise me.  As you'll soon find out, the Seven Wonders encompass a LOT of people...which is why my life is amazing.  Isn't there that expression, "It takes a village to raise a child...?"  I've had a small nation...that's how much help I needed!

1. Mom, Dad, Matt, Allison, Lydia and Courtney
Erica!  That's like six wonders already!  I know, I know.  I told you there were a lot of people on this list.  When God chose my immediate family, these were the six He chose. (seven when Court gets married.  I guess eight if I get married!! Nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen...when we all start having kids.)

2. Fr. Rick and the young adults at St. John the Evangelist
If you've never met Fr. Rick, he's the priest at St. John the Evangelist downtown.  Go to a Mass there one Sunday and you'll understand why he's a wonder.  I've never met someone with such natural joy.  Also, the whole young adult community at St. John's was put in my life during a time when I felt VERY alone and confused.  They will always be a sign of God's redeeming love and plan for me!

3. My Roncalli High School Faithful
One of my favorite wonders because they are so unexpected!  Take kids who were friends from the ages of 13-18 and make them friends as adults at 28.  We have different hobbies and different styles, but Brad, Erin, the Kavanaugh twins, Steve, Vanesa and I stay together and it's an awesome gift.

4. My Monday Night School of Community Group (CL)
This group of people meets with me every week on Monday nights to talk seriously about life and how to live it to the fullest?  You interested?  You're invited.  What's beautiful are these people who take the time to read Fr. Giussani's readings, but more importantly, really live the passion that was given inside of us.  We come together to share the surprise of, "Wow!  God really is in our midst."

5. My St. Susanna Family
How many outsiders at your job would volunteer to help you get your job done?  What about showing up at a Zumba class because you're trying to start a career OR raising an ungodly amount of money for your Haiti mission?  When I first started teaching at St. Susanna, it was a place to get my foot in the door and leave in about two years.  I knew no one there...the school was small and hardly on the Archdiocesan map.  Now, it's truly a family.  My boss is merciful and just, my coworkers supportive, and the families of my students affirming of me and the love I show their children.  It's a WONDERful place to work, seriously.

6. Fraternity/Diaconia Group for Communion and Liberation
Check out #4 because it's born of the same Holy Spirit.  Add to the mix an Italian couple, my ex-boyfriend, two friends from college and a guy my dad's age who I know from my time in Evansville and you have one surprising and POWERFUL concoction of the Holy Spirit.  Never in my WILDEST OF DREAMS would I share my life with these beautiful followers of Christ...but I do and it fills me.  Hence, a wonder.

7. Those Who I Wish Lived in My Town
***Okay, this might be a cop-out wonder because it includes people from college, people who have moved away from Indy, friends that I only see twice a year at CL functions but trust them whole-heartedly with my life decisions, etc.  But they make the "Wonders of the World" list because seriously, what a wonder that you could keep relationships with people who aren't even in your immediate vicinity!!!!!  If I've talked to you in the last two months, consider yourself part of this list!

So, thanks be to God for these people in my life...the wonders of the world that I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

People Rock My World

Last Friday, I took a personal day from work.  And was out in the freezing morning cold at 7:30am.  WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?

I was asking that very question when the first group of high schoolers walked up to Lucas Oil Stadium for the annual National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).  They were holding Starbucks, decked out in matching T-shirts and crazy hats.  I said my obligatory "Good morning, everyone!" and they shouted back, "GOOD MORNING!"

Wait. What?  When I volunteered to help out at this conference, I'll admit, it was a way to get a free ticket in.  To actually be moved by the volunteering part wasn't something I expected.

Then, high school kids and chaperones alike are looking me in the eyes and saying, "Thank you so much for being out here," and "Have a great day!"  I looked to my left and noticed a dear friend of mine, not all that enthused (shall we say) about the Catholic Church but agreeing to work with me, get this sudden burst of energy too from being with these kids. 

At a break, I said to my friend, "People are awesome."  Because it's true.  People ARE awesome.  They are complex, reflective, demanding, and desiring but have the power to make a crappy day into a good one or vice versa.  People have such a hold on us whether it's because we desire to please them, can't get enough of them or can't stand them.  What is that inside of the human person that makes it SOOOO in your face?  So life changing?  So powerful?

A priest named Fr. Giussani definies our greatness to our "religious sense": this collection of needs and desires that we have that longs for Whoever created it.  (Because, let's be honest.  We could have never dreamed up how we react in front of others, longing for them, hating them, being inspired by them, etc.)

Fr. Giussani claims that when paying attention to our religious sense and those of others, we find the path to God because only God makes sense of the religious sense. (Make sense? ha.)  So, as I'm standing with my "atheist" friend Josh welcoming NCYC youth I'll never speak to again, freezing my BUTT off at 7:30am on my day off...I'm ridiculously happy and wouldn't have traded the moment for anything.  God was there--in my and Josh's hearts wanting to be a welcoming face to those who were walking up the steps AND in the thousands of youth and chaperones who recognized we were standing there.  My "people are awesome" comment revealed a much more profound truth about WHO MAKES people so awesome.  And I'm ecstatic that HE WHO MAKES people awesome knows my name, too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Noticing November!

When I walked into Walmart on October 21st and saw Christmas decorations, I couldn't believe it.  Then, I saw this on someone's Facebook wall:

Dear December,

Wait your turn!

Love, November

I've always been a big fan of November (and you'll be able to see why looking through the rest of this post) but I think it's a lesson to all of us to just ENJOY the present.  It's a reminder to not be worrying about the future or hoping that the past was back to stay.  The present moment is all you have right now.  What are you doing with it?

Having trouble loving November for who she is?  (Yes!  November is a 'she' in my book.)  How about these suggestions:

Something enveloping the entire fall season is the wrap up of fall sports.  I love all the tournaments at the local high school level as well as my little St. Susanna Spartans going for their city title! 

1. November 1st was All Saints Day (see my All Saints Day post if you want more)

2. November 13th: MY BIRTHDAY!  I bet if you think really hard, you can think of at least ONE amazing person in your life that was born in November.  Maybe it's just because I pay attention more to people with November birthdays, but this month seems LOADED with them!

3. November 17th-19th: National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. 25,000 high school youth coming together to learn more about the Catholic faith.  I took a day off just to volunteer I want to be part of it so badly! :)

4. November 21st marks the FIRST of my (hopefully many) Zumba classes and a launch in my "career" as a fitness instructor.  I'm so excited and nervous, I could puke!

5. November 24th: THANKSGIVING DAY!  MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY

6. November 25th: BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING. MY FAVORITE POST-THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY ACTIVITY!

7. November 27th: The Catholic Mass (in the English speaking world) revamps with updated prayers.  It's going to be a little awkward at first, but as I'm educating myself more and more about why the changes are there, I'm thankful to be following the Body of Christ that is bigger and wiser than myself!

So, that's what I have.  Take it or leave it.  The point is that YOU find something that brings you real, true life this November.  Life doesn't just start with preparations for Christmas....it has goodness all year round! :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Crap, She's Up": What It Takes To Be A Saint

(Attention: I've been wanting to write this post since July 27th....better late than never and NOW it's been given a new twist.  Happy All Saints Day!)

"I want to be the sort of woman, who when her feet hit the floor in the morning, the devil sighs and says 'crap she's up.'" I'm not sure if someone said this to me or if I read it on someone else's blog, in a book, online or if it's a song lyric, but I liked it so much I had to write it down.

The thought that I could be so awesome that someone dreads me for it, is pretty sweet.  Mix this with the Catholic Solemnity of All Saints Day today and you've got yourself some powerful reflection.

Isn't it true that the Devil definitely said, "Crap....!!!!" when the saints walked the Earth?  Think of the beautiful lives of recent saints like Mother Teresa or Blessed John Paul II.  Some of my FAVORITE saints: Saint Rose of Lima, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Paul, St. Mary Magdelene, St. Jude, St. Anthony, etc.  Think of the people who lived with them during their periods of history.  As that saint walked towards you, I'm sure a little piece was thinking, "Oh, crap!" because you just KNEW that they could see right to the depths of your intentions, your actions, your lies, your mistakes.  They were so holy, they could tell when you weren't.

What does the Devil say when he sees me?  What does God say when he sees me?

In every human heart, even the most messed-up ones, lies this desire to be good, to want good and to show good unto others.  We might all have different ways of getting there...but in the end, we want to be the best person we can be.  It's totally innate.  We also want to be loved--the apple of someone's eye.  Someone who loves us so much that even when we screw up again and again, we are STILL loved the same way as before we screwed up.

I really want to be a saint.  I was super scandalized when I first realized that desire.  I mean, who says they WANT to be a saint?  Isn't that kind of self-righteous or vain or conceited?  But, for me, saints inspire by their lives of ordinary-ness and the immense peace that comes into their hearts no matter what circumstances hit them in life.  They are so full of love and so busy loving they could care less what others think of them.  THAT'S what I want!!!!

Saints are not just for the past--they're right here and now.  I COULD BE A SAINT TODAY if I would just stop letting my preconceptions and fears get in the way of my relationships with others.  The key?  My sainthood isn't going to come from a list of good works and attitudes that I have for the day.  It's not even a checklist of the good outweighing the bad. (Thank God.  I had a few bad years there....)

So what does it take to be a saint?  Acting as if everything depends on you, with the truest realization that it does not!  The One who made my heart and all of its desires for goodness and showing true justice (which is love) to others, IS STILL HERE!  I'M AWESOME IN HIS EYES AND HE CAN'T BE CONVINCED OTHERWISE.  Also, He's totally in control...He's got it.  All I have to do is live my daily tasks knowing He's in control and loving who/what He gives.  Being a saint is letting God love me so that I can be the apple of his eye and be moved by that love.

For me, sainthood starts the second I get off this computer and choose to grade my papers without griping.  It continues when I can grade those papers without yelling (in my head or out loud) at my students because "I already taught them this."  Sainthood continues when I can walk into the classroom tomorrow and say, "Okay, kids.  We didn't get this...let's try again..." with the amount of patience only a supernatural power can give.

I have the choice to choose the good or to do the evil....but I usually wind up fearing that choosing the good won't be good ENOUGH and make up my own solution.  Instead, Lord, increase my strength and capacity to love in my daily tasks and show me again and again the beauty of your Reality.  Fashion me into a saint!

Happy All Saints Day!

Mother Mary...pray for us!
St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes....pray for us!
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, patron saint of Catholic school teachers....pray for us!
St. Rose of Lima, my patron...pray for me!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Position in Front of Reality

Read this in the Magnificat on Sunday, October 22nd by Patrick Madrid and I LOVED IT! 

I've been living a lot of my years knowing that I'm at a point of no return...but this says it so beautifully that one of my blog posts wouldn't even be worthy!  Now, of course, I'm not living this perfectly, but this is one of those "let's post it in the bathroom" type readings so I can remember what it means to be Christian--and therefore, truly human!

"I am part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.  The die has been cast.  The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line.  I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is in God's hands.  I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, the bare minimum, smooth knees, colorless dreams, frivolous living, selfish giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, applause, or popularity.  I don't have to be right, first, the best, recongized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live by faith.  I lean on Christ's presence.  I love with patience, live by prayer, and labor with the power of God's grace.

My face is set.  My gait is fast, my goal is heaven.  My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, and my mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and spoken up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must got till he comes, give until I drop, speak out until all know, and work until he stops me.  And when he returns for his own, he will have no difficulty recognizing me.  My banner is clear: I am part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BLOG!

HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY, BABY BLOG!

So...what's happened in a year?
1. I discovered Zumba in January of this past year and proceeded to lose 20 pounds doing it.  I'm also becoming Zumba certified this Saturday.
2. I took my first ever silent retreat this past Spring Break and got to grow even more in my relationship with God!
3. I've said so many goodbyes to friends this year it is absolutely ridiculous...but absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Also, I had a really good friendship go sour this year, somewhat unexpectedly, through a lot of misunderstanding, lack of communication and mistakes on both parties.  I'm still praying for reconciliation with that one!
4. I started graduate school...what a professional undertaking THAT has been.
5. I somehow navigated myself through teaching elementary school for the first time after teaching at the middle school level for four years.
6. I'm seeing greater peace in my life as 'single' and despite a vast number of crushes, I'm waiting on him to figure out that I'm worth pursuing!
7. I visited Haiti for the second time and my personal sacrifice was much more this year than the first.
8. Did I say I lost 20 pounds? 
9. Bonded with my niece, Lydia, babysitting her two days a week over the summer. 
10. STARTED THIS BLOG...The start of my blog was as an experiment. I had just taken a short class on blogging and wanted to see what it was all about and if my kids could do it too. Although I'm not convinced it's the best or most helpful thing for fourth graders and their learning, I FELL IN LOVE WITH BLOGGING...

October 18th! The day I started my blog and entered this unknown digital world of blogging, following people I don't even know and having connections with people I never thought possible. For example, where else can I read the latest Catholic gossip from a Vatican reporter AND hear about my friend's experience in Thailand all in the same day? It's amazing!
It's a place where you can come to solid judgements about weird situations or proclaim the truth in certainty! :)  In my first post, I wrote, "I hope that blogging can bring me clarity, joy, and greater verification that Jesus Christ is risen and living in our world."

How am I doing?  I can say that today,  more than ever, I want to see Him living in our world and offering me a peace and joy that the world can't possibly offer on its own!  Have a rocking week, everyone!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In His Infinite Mercy, God Gives Me Time to Blog....

Has it really been over THREE WEEKS  since I blogged last?

Here's the thing: I have lots of blog topics written out and sitting on my desk, on my laptop and in my apartment right now just waiting to BUST OUT.

The List:

1. My Visit to Nashville (Yeah, that happened the first weekend of August...)
2. When I Die, I'm Going to Ask God This...(timeless...might still be coming)
3. YOU take away the sins of the World...(I'm pretty sure I was really moved by those words at Mass one day and wanted to write a blog about it...That thought has since passed)
4. "Crap, She's Up" (What I want the devil to say about me every morning..also timeless)
5. Mercy and Teaching (I think I just wanted to complain about everything I have to do to impress the administration here at school.)
6. Why You Aren't Invited (Reasons why I never have visitors to my apt.  This one is pretty personal and I'm still working up the courage.  Okay, not really personal.  Just embarrassing.)

Some of these topics are now obsolete and now that I have the time, I don't want to write about ANY of them...so here goes...wingin' it on the blog.

It's Parent Teacher Conference Week and those weeks used to stress me out.

1. Parents are older than me and still scary.
2. What do I know about raising kids and giving judgements about how they are doing in school?
3. How do I deal with questions I can't answer?
4. I'm sorry...How late do you want me to stay after school?

This year, Parent Teacher Conference Week feels like a vacation:
1. I cancelled all of my tutoring jobs and evening dinner plans for the whole week, so I have an unGodly amount of time...really, I was straightening up my classroom today.  That's definitely usually a 4th grader's job.

2. Although still a little intimidating at times, parents are just wanting the same things I do: love, belonging, acceptance, and mercy.  Give their kid praise and they feel praised to.  So basically, I try to outweigh the praise with the bad stuff NOT just during conference week but ALL YEAR...ESPECIALLY in the beginning.  It's worked wonders with my parent/teacher relationships.

3. I still know nothing about raising kids, but I DO have six years of teaching experience to pull from, so with each year gains a little more confidence.

4. Here's how I deal with questions I can't answer: "I'm not sure, but I'll get back to you on that." Then, I really DO get back to them on that.  Not only do I learn something, but parents trust me.  All it takes is a little humility, which I'm usually not all that willing to show.

5. With the way this year is going, staying until 7pm is just old hat.  Seriously, my vocation as a teacher is NOT 9-5.  I knew that all along, but this year, I'm really having to live it!

So here's to you, Parent Teacher Conference Week!  You aren't so gloom-and-doom anymore.  I mean, I prefer a beach vacation, but if this is what I get, I'll take it! :) 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Words of Wisdom

These words totally snapped me out of a funk a few weeks ago and they've been sitting on my desk just waiting to be shared!

Thankfully, God waited long enough that I FORGOT them, again, and here I am reminded again of the truth that sets me free!

From Meditation of the Day, Magnificat Tuesday, August 23rd

It is difficult to love and to be loved as one would like.  It is painful to realize that there are whole areas in the life of the mind that will never be revealed.  Every man, one day or another, becomes aware of his poverty as a creature.  And since this experience is a crushing one, the natural temptation is therefore distractions, or as Pascal said, diversions.  There is an "impatience with one's limitations," a natural temptation that urges us to flee before such limitations.  We experience a fear in coming face to face with them, and this fear arises again and again inside us.  Distractions, therefore, appear as the opposite of prayer, a refusal of our real condition, an evasion of it in favor of illusion, dream, mirage (recall man's pursuit of different kinds of drunkenness: evasion by the flesh, art, sports, etc.)

However, the first moment of true prayer occurs in the experience and awareness of one's limitations.  We do not know what our real needs are, and we must learn them all over again each day.  In this sense, prayer has the value of pedagogy, it is the great pedagogy of God.  While evasion and distractions draw us away from the road to real happiness, prayer brings us back to what is most authentic in man's quest for happiness.  "The truth will set you free."  Prayer makes us free; it preserves what is most fragile and most precious in us: the integrity of our desire, that desire which, in final analysis, is nothing but need for God.  This is what prayer preserves in us, and must teach us every day, this need for God, which is the distinctive, most profound trait that separates man from the animals.  Man is the only being who turns to God to obtain what is lacking for his own fulfillment. 

Father Bernard Bro (French Dominian Priest)

So thankful for those words!  May they sink into your heart, mind and soul as they did mine!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ode to St. Rose

I'm a few days late, but allow me to give you a little information about one of my favorite saints in the Catholic Church, St. Rose of Lima, whose feast day was celebrated last Tuesday!
Who was St. Rose of Lima?
Living towards the end of the 16th century and early 17th century in Lima, Peru, Rose, from a young age was a saint that most of us just scratch our heads and say, "What?"  She modeled St. Catherine of Siena by praying almost constantly, abstaining from meat, fasting three days a week, giving herself harsh penances, etc.  She wanted to take a vow of virginity, but was very beautiful and her parents wanted her to marry.  Eventually, she was granted her own section of the house by her father so she could live as a recluse.  She became a Third Order Dominican because her father forbade her in becoming a nun.  She performed awesome acts of charity, had intervals of ecstasy, saw the Infant Jesus at times, and prophesied her own date of her death. She lived to be 31.

Why is Erica in love?
The coolest story of St. Rose of Lima that attracted me when I was picking a confirmation saint name at the age of 14, was that Rose put lye and pepper on her face when she was young to disfigure her face and deter suitors away from her. (since she did not want to marry)  In the words of my 4th graders, "Then those guys didn't love her really anyway."  Great point.

It's interesting that I love St. Rose so much that I even took her again as a patron saint for a retreat I took in college and her influence has stuck since.  But why?  This woman is NOTHING like me.  It's hard enough for me to not eat second helpings, let alone fast.  My idea of a perfect night would be line dancing while hers would probably be adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  For goodness sakes, she died at 31---I'm four years away from 31!  And detering attention from guys?  That just sounds stupid.

It is PRECISELY because of these differences that I think St. Rose is so amazing. When I read that story of her disfiguring her face because she loved Him so much and only needed Him, I recognized in this saint a faith that I did not have.  She's not just inspiring in a sense of admiration that is distant.  She lived in this world...dealt with things I deal with and STILL chose Him first, above all.

I'm grateful to my Catholic Church for giving me such awesome saints to show me that it is possible to live this way. I might not be whipping myself any time soon, but her life makes me strive to discover and pray for an ever greater certainty of God's power and mercy in my life.  I feel like St. Rose is saying to me, "Don't worry.  God's got your back," and through her intercession, may I live a life worthy of His call.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Slim Pickins'

So now that the school year is BACK IN ACTION, I'm very excited to announce that I've started monitoring my food consumption again.  As fun as summer is, it is SO EASY to slack off on how much money you are spending, how many times you go out to eat, and how much you pig out at summer picnic potlucks. Yikes.

Just for funsies, I'm sharing a list of things that make eating right really fun because God allowed them to taste so good.  The other list are all those other things that ALSO taste really good and I think God must have put those in my life as healthy temptation.

Stuff I Could Eat All The Time and Be Guilt Free: (in moderation, of course)
  • Bananas
  • Plums
  • Nectarines
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Cooked Onions
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Asaparagus
  • Rice
  • Salmon
  • Chicken (any kind of chicken...seriously doesn't matter)
  • Pretzels
  • Chip-Ins (My NEWEST discovery!)
  • Crystal Light
  • Cucumbers
  • Popcorn
  • Bagel Thins
  • Fiber One Bars
Stuff I Could Also Eat All The Time (and if I wasn't on myfitnesspal.com I probably would)
  • French Fries
  • Sweet Tea from McCallisters or McDonalds
  • Donuts
  • Cakey Cake
  • Chocolate
  • Brownies
  • Any type of chip..Potato, Tortilla
  • Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Burritos
  • Peanut Butter
I'm excited to say that since I started this little "monitoring my weight and activity" venture on http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ about nine months ago, I've lost 22 pounds and I plan on losing about ten more!  Thank God for it's accountability feature AND it telling me how many calories I lose doing Zumba and line dancing!  What a gift!  You guys should check it out!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bringing Down the Backer....

Am I a huge Notre Dame fan? No. Do I think their alumni stuff is kind of weird? Yes.

However, I have a lot of really great friends who just graduated with master's degrees in theology from there, so we HAD to celebrate.  And the only reasonable thing to do was "close the Backer" last Friday night.

Closing the Backer is as awesome as it sounds--staying out until 3am dancing your butt off to tunes you may have heard in the 80s or on your radio on the way to the bar.  The Linebacker Inn (known by that name only to people who are uncool like me...) is a tacky little establishment with no seating or tables...just a dance floor and a bar.  Your $5 cover buys you your first drink and you then get 32oz beers of GOOD beer for $3.00.

But I've danced the night away before...many nights.  I had to ask myself what made this one so different?  Especially enough for me to write a blog post about it and even be thinking about it a week later.

It was by far the people I celebrated with and the fact that those people will NEVER be together again.  It was our one moment in time...when "you really get to see another side to people," as my friend Joe said! :)  We danced with no inhabition, sang at the top of our lungs, and just were pumped to be together. 

The rest of the weekend was awesome too getting to see my friends graduate, have dinner, dance AGAIN and then say our goodbyes.  I'm so thankful for the friends that I have and that I continue to meet.  They are truly people who I've seen a passion for life in a way I didn't know before I met them.  And even if they don't live in my city anymore, that passion and love for life is something that never goes away.  SOOOOO...when we visit each other in future years, it will be like nothing has changed.  I know this is true because I already have so many friends around the world where it is like this.

How's it possible?  From one God who created us to have one desire--to be with Him.  When you find people who are living pursuing THAT, you really can never be disappointed, bored or mediocre.

Praising God today for Nic, Natalie and Joe and the "excuse" of being able to reflect on the amazing few years of their lives in Indianapolis.  May God continue to bless all of us with these rich friendships and powerful encounters!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back to School Without Fear

So, tomorrow starts the grand adventure of "back-to-school."  I'm going into my classroom to start sorting through and getting it set up for the new school year.

An added twist: I'm not really sure what classroom that is.  Enrollment has been kind of weird at St. Susanna and I've been dancing between the 3rd grade and 4th grade all summer.  My stuff is all in boxes and SOMEWHERE at school.

So, I attack all this uncertainty tomorrow.  Will I have enough time to get it done?  Will I even have enough bookshelves to put everything on?  Where am I going to store everything?  Wait.  What about my lesson plans?  How in the HECK am I going to do this?  These were all questions plaguing my brain last night as I went to sleep and this morning while I was trying to focus on morning prayer.

But, as always, God saves in the circumstances of my life.  First, I'm with my niece today, which means I'm spending the whole day serving someone other than myself.  She sees life with such joy and simplicity that it really makes you feel stupid that you're worried about something like bookshelves.

Secondly, through some divinely arranged technological encounters! :)  A text message, two blogs (not mine) and an online article my friend wrote about Catholic schools have all reminded me again of something I already know to be true, but need the constant assurance of my friends--God is in control.  And God wants our happiness.  And when I follow this Love, all things unfold in a beauty I couldn't imagine.

In the article I read today the superintendent of Catholic Schools in Witchita says to be a servant, a steward and a shepherd in leadership because the work is not our own.  There is Something much bigger at play!

In gratitude for the knowledge of the Lord's love for me, I go into my school building wanting to serve Him through the circumstances He gives.  I'll let you know how God writes the story.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Blessed are your eyes, because they see..."

So, July has been kind of a whirlwind and the blogging time unintentionally slipped by!  At the beginning of the summer, a theme of my prayer was to "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord." and He has been doing just that by giving life such a richness and fullness these past few weeks.

I'm going to hardly give these events justice, but here's a brief synopsis of where I've been lately.
The Rocky Mountains for the CL Vacation
I spent my Fourth of July hiking on the Continental Divide!  Woot! I think this picture is beautiful because of the girls in it and the mountains. :)

This vacation with about sixty other young adults from all over the country was another moment for me to really see how God  has chosen this particular path for me to follow Christ.  A priest on the vacation reminded me that I can't just use my experiences with CL just as a resource, but it really needs to shape all of my life! 

As a result, I've been taking much more seriously inviting people to events, reading Traces, the CL Magazine and staying faithful to praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  Taking this opportunities to really educate my heart makes me much more clear in front of other life events that happen that I don't expect or don't like (for example, having to finish up my graduate classes!)

Going hand in hand with the vacation was something that happened four days after:
Meeting Fr. Carron in Evansville
Fr. Carron is the priest that is the President for Communion and Liberation in the world.  He's the little guy right to my right! :)  He has such a piece and a great spirit that you know has to be generated from his relationship with Christ.  He spent the weekend singing songs with us and answering our questions (informally and at a formal assembly) Father reminded us that following Christ is "easy" in that you're attracted by something beautiful and you move to understand it deeper.

He gave me the courage to know that I'm a light for others, simply because I've been touched by the hand of God as I can verify in all kinds of experiences in my life!  That light attracts others in HIS TIME and in HIS WAY, which I have trouble sometimes letting happen.  Haha.

I remember the first few nights after getting back from Evansville scourging through old news articles and notes from conferences I'd attended just urging to give my friends some helpful words for things they were struggling through in their lives.  It's been such a renewal for me to see with this clarity again and it's STABLE.  Something that I know won't go away with the changing emotions.

I continue to see this fervor for living even now...I worked for about 20 hours in the last two days on things for my master's classes and instead of just "getting it done to be done" I was proud of my work and emailed it to some friends who I thought would be interested too.  It became a proposal for life instead of just a task.

Then, I woke up this morning and started to really think about what has touched me and wanting to delve deeper into the truths of life in a lot of gestures--I'm helping a friend put together a presentation for art, we're working on a movie night, I want to put on a book presentation with the book we read at our weekly meetings, etc.  And all of this comes not from a duty (well, I SHOULD do this because I'm the leader) but a love for the people around me and desire for them to experience what I have.

So, are you with me on this journey? In whatever capacity you follow, we are friends simply because we have been put on the same path to discover again and again the beauty of our natures and the goodness of what reality shows us.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The "Whoa's!" of Technology...

There are things in life we just take for granted these days...to the capacity that it's reducing my critical thinking skills.

Get this: I actually locked my niece in the car today.  Well, I thought I did.  After an awesome ice cream cone and run around in the play area at Chik-Fil-A, we went out the car.  She was holding my keys (with the remote that has the lock/unlock and "panic" buttons on them) and I had the key to my ignition in my hand.  I put my niece in the car seat, shut the door, was walking around my car when...CLICK...Lydie Bug, in all her cuteness, pressed the LOCK button on the remote, locking herself in.

I was FREAKING OUT!  It was a hot day, my cell phone was locked in the car too (along with my niece)...all the windows are up, she's going to be dying of heat in there.  Real, true, panic rose up inside of me.  Do I motion to a one-year-old how to push the (much smaller and less appealing than the one she just pushed) UNLOCK button??  How do I leave her out there while I go inside to ask to use the phone?  WHO do I call?  How do I even know their number??

In my anxiety, I started pacing and flipping my ignition key around my finger...MY IGNITION KEY.  Despite my popular practices, that DOES still open all of the doors to my car.  So, I open it, "rescue" my niece and drive out of the Chik-fil-A parking lot, CRYING because I got so scared and LAUGHING because that was the most ridiculous situation I've been in for a long while.  Thank God I didn't call AAA!!!

So, after about three minutes of real stress, we are all okay and the niece is peacefully now sleeping in her air-conditioned home on a nice comfy bed.

My first car had manual locks, roll-down windows, no cruise control, etc.  I didn't have a remote opener for the first eight years of being a legal driver!  Remembering THIS would have been helpful this afternoon....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"That Thing I'm A Part Of..." My Tribute to Communion and Liberation

How many friends do you have that can tell you what life is really about, try to live it themselves, AND actually know what they're talking about?  My parents, first and foremost, are my guides.  Their wisdom and values that they transmitted to us are ones that I keep discovering daily.  I was so fortunate to be part of a family who truly unconditionally loves but also doesn't let you slack to be something lesser than your true self.

When I left my family and went to college, I was given another set of wonderful people who continued to teach me what life was all about.  It all started with Julia, a girl in my psychology class, who invited me to answer phones for this telephone marathon thing.  So, here I am, my first weekend in college in a brand new city, volunteering for an organization I can't remember with a girl I hardly knew.

Throughout my freshman year, my friendship with Julia grew and I realized that I was being hit by someone extraordinary.  Julia was cool--she liked line dancing, country music, playing games, watching movies, telling jokes--but she also had a huge Catholic faith.  Until that point, I had never recognized anyone in my life who integrated their faith life with real life so well.  I started going to her all the time with questions about why Catholic believed what they believed (even though I had been in Catholic schools for the past 7 years, it didn't interest me until I met Julia.)

Then, a life changing event entered.  She invited me to this meeting called "CL" where a group of people got together, read a book, and discussed it for an hour on Monday nights.  I politely declined, but I saw her go to this meeting every week.  It didn't matter what else was going on, she made this "CL" thing a priority.

After about a semester of observing this, I decided to go along with another girl from my dorm.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was probably expecting something really WOW.  Turns out, I hated the meeting.  The book was hard.  The leader was kind of scary and I walked out thinking I would never return.  But Mandy, the girl from my dorm and still a great friend, challenged my thinking saying, "But Julia goes every week.  Maybe we should try it just once more."  Events evolved and beautiful friendships were formed by a simply weekly commitment that I stuck with!  I'm not even sure how it all happened....

Fast forward 8 years.  Julia is now "Sr. Gemma" taking her vows with the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 16th in Queens, New York.  If you know me at all, you know how this "CL Thing"--Communion and Liberation, a movement in the Catholic Church--pretty much dominates my life and has made it SO INTERESTING. 
I've been able to see Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, New York City and Milan, Italy all due to CL events--vacations, meetings, cultural events, etc.  I've traveled ridiculous distances for weddings and could probably tell you someone I know in almost every state. 

I started going to daily Mass because I had friends who did.  (Just to show you my growth, I missed Mass two days in a row last week, and was so sad.  When did that attachment happen?)  The guys I've dated?  Yep, they've come from CL, too.  And despite the heartache that's inevitable, are all wonderful men.

For eight years, I've been going to weekly meetings where we discuss texts from the founder of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Giussani, and also the president of the Movement since he has passed, Fr. Carron.  For circumstances beyond my control, I found myself leading the small communities I'm a part of and had the privilege of meeting and befriending so many interesting people who I never would have picked as friends on my own.
I'm promised to the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation which is a commitment of daily prayer, tithing and attending an annual spiritual retreat led by the leaders of Communion and Liberation.  In short, the charism (a gift of the Holy Spirit that has been verified by Pope John Paul II that exists in CL) is intrinsic to the way I live my life now.

But, Erica, aren't you living in a bubble??  It scares people when one is so committed to something.  In my lesser moments, it scandalizes me.  I think it's a downfall of society these days.  We are expected to be skeptics.  But, when something brings you immense life and joy and opens you up to a "self" you never knew, why WOULDN'T you commit to it?  And, how can I be in a bubble with such diversity in my life experiences?

Through the eyes of how Fr. Giussani saw the relevance of the Catholic faith--a Christ's presence--in relation to all of life, I've found myself truly changed.  I'm a better daughter to my parents who gave and continue to give so much.  I'm a better teacher, loving my students because they ARE, not because of what they achieve.  I stay with my friends from high school because I love seeing them mature into adulthood--I'm not just stuck reminiscing on the past.  I give everything I can to my community at St.. John's Church because it was God's direct answer to a begging at a time in my life when I felt so so alone. 

Classical music has a new spin, movies, books, hiking, poetry, my PRAYER LIFE, looking at the stars--life ILLUMINATES under Christ's light and for my life the instrument shinging that light (a flashlight, or spotlight, if you will) is Communion and Liberation.

My prayer for all of humanity is that everyone can find something rooted in the truth of Christ so much that they illuminate under it's Light.  It doesn't have to be Communion and Liberation of course, although you are all invited to everything all the time.  All human beings long for truth, belonging, and a path on which to walk where they are certain they are taken care of.  So, don't just sit there.  Precious life is passing and you might be missing a lot of it!  Ask God for the grace to be given people who point out the fullness and beauty of life to you.  It will change everything!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Summer of Stability

I must have missed the memo about having a major life change this summer.  There seems to be more people in my life than I can count moving away from Indianapolis to start new jobs (important people, not just mere "chat, have fun and forget-about-them-friends...). My sister started her "grown-up" life in Findlay, Ohio. Two of my best friends from high school are skipping to Michigan for a better job opportunity.  My dear friend, now DR. DAVE, is moving to Nashville to start his residency program.  The list goes on and on.

And in the meantime, I just signed a contract stating I would stay in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis schools for another seven years working on my masters and paying off that loan by "serving" the Catholic schools here.

Serving?? I'm tempted to think of this like a ball and chain!

The Benedictine Sisters here (and probably everywhere, although I haven't researched that) take, along with other vows, a vow of stability.  When I first heard that in high school, I thought that was kind of posh--a little too easy.  Staying where you've always lived?  I mean, come on!

But here I am, living in the same place I've lived my whole life (minus those four years in Evansville) and I'm finding that the challenge is embracing the fact that others are leaving YOU, not that you are leaving them.  That transition of moving to a new place and finding your people and your places is a struggle for anyone.  And the transition is also a struggle for the people who stay in the same place!

A wise man once said to me in college, "The truest friends are those who pack your bags for you even if they don't know why you are leaving."  I've had enough life experiences to know that distance and even the amount of time spent together doesn't determine a friendship.  "Friendship" is simply loving someone enough to want all of their happiness--in whatever path they choose!

One of the most beautiful memories I have from a trip to Haiti two years ago was a moment where we were playing Euchre, and, right there, in the middle of the hand, one guy so genuinely says to the other, "Joe, I hope you get everything you want out of life."  We all laughed, of course, at how random that was but....What a beautiful expression of a true friendship that does not possess anything for itself!

I'm getting my practice this summer of how to truly affirm another's path and trusting the beauty of the present moments!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Proud to be a Rebel

I had the good fortune yesterday of witnessing one of my high school classmates, Dustin Boehm, be ordained into the Catholic priesthood!  As a graduate of Roncalli, we always talk about "Rebel Pride" and I can't think of a reason to be more proud when someone embraces a way of life that is counter-cultural, a sacrifice in some ways, yet with grace and humility as Dustin did.

It was a great day, filled with the Holy Spirit and a true sign that life's meaning and happiness comes from Someone else!  

In a homily given during Dustin's first Mass, a priest from St. Meinrad (I forget his name now) said that, in Dustin's years of formation, he learned what it meant to be a man.  A man who loves.  A man of prayer.  A man of God. 

Isn't this what our education is all about?  Becoming the TRUEST men and women we were created to be?  Dustin thanked so many of his friends, family, priests and parishes that had helped form him through the years and he was dead on--we aren't finding our way alone!  It's only through great witnesses of the faith and unconditional love that we can have the courage to live life in the way Christ asks of us!

It's only the beginning to see what becomes of this man--now Fr. Dustin Boehm.  I hope I am blessed to see all the lives he will touch through his selfless giving of his life through the priesthood.  May we all pray that Christ be close to Fr. Dustin in prayer and give him a deeper joy than he ever thought possible!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Enlightened by Light: Holy Saturday

My third and final post on Holy Week...Thanks for sticking with me, people! 

Light is a GREAT symbol for God...(who thought of that anyway??)  I was brought to a deeper understanding of who this Jesus Christ character is through two ceremonies during Holy Week that used light in its worship.

First, was a Tenebrae service at Cardinal Ritter High School on Good Friday.  In a systematic way, the prayers of the evening are sung and candles are extinguished as you near the end of the service.  (symbolic of Christ's death getting nearer and nearer...)

When there's light from only one candle left, the priest takes the candle out of the prayer space and there you are, sitting in darkness.  This represents inside of Jesus tomb.  Dark. Silent.  I think it was the first time I ever realized just how FINAL Jesus death was.  He was dead.  It was over.

Then, unique only to a Tenebrae service, in the darkness arises some kind of loud noise (in Ritter's case, I think it was tympanies!) that symbolizes the closing of the tomb.  Dark.  Silent.  I wish I could have stayed there for a little longer in the silence and just felt what the Apostles must have felt those 24 hours after Jesus' death.  Seriously, what were they thinking?  I probably would have panicked...here's this guy that was saying all these incredible things about the universe and NOW I have to somehow live without Him.

Tenebrae ends with the priest bringing the lighted candle back into the prayer space so you end with one candle shining in the space.  It makes total sense and was a total relief...God is here.  He's never leaving.  And you may think He's gone sometimes, but there are always little reminders that He is ever present.

The Easter Vigil Mass of Holy Saturday ALSO has a theme of light and a beautiful prayer that the Bishop read about how the huge Easter candle's light NEVER dims, despite how many candles are lit from its flame.

This was an AMAZING fact for me that night because I usually feel very "spent" like I couldn't possibly give another ounce of service, love, or patience to ANYONE..and yet, here's this candle flame...giving, giving, giving and never becoming lesser.  With the light of Christ we received at Baptism, this unendingly charitable heart is the same within each of us---I'm just always limiting myself because I can't comprehend in my mind how I could ever give so much of myself to another person or group of people and still be happy.  But the point is, we are given an eternal flame immeasurable by our puny human standards.  I want to pull from THAT today when I'm in front of my students! :)

A Haitian Sensation Sweeping the Nation

To my blogger faithfuls (all two of you), I'm sorry to not have written in this more regularly.  Truth be told, I'm loving life right now way to much to sit at a computer and write it all down!  This is why all my life I've been terrible at journal writing, diary keeping, etc.  There's just too much to write and not enough time to do it!

And despite the fact that it's my first day back to school since my week-long trip to Haiti, I have three online classes for grad school needing things from me immediately, AND I have dinner with my family tonight, I sit here and type because I think my reflections on what I've learned from my most recent trek to Haiti are a helpful guide to how to live life TODAY...no matter what circumstances you find yourselves in.

This is my second trip to Haiti in two years with my Good Shepherd, Fr. Rick Nagel, and other young adults from the St. John's Catholic community in Indianapolis.  The invitation to go to Haiti came unexpectedly last year during a time where my life was being flipped upside down anyway...so why not go to Haiti?  All signs pointed to "yes," I was granted time off in my school year and I went.

This year was a little different in that I had to apply and was then appointed as a "young adult leader" for the team.  I was expecting to be with another (besides Father) who had been before and that didn't happen and immediately going to Haiti became this burden--raising money, taking time off, writing lesson plans, etc.  What had I gotten myself into?

As the trip got closer, and by God's grace, I found excitement in returning once again--seeing this opportunity as truly unique.  I mean, really, who gets to go to Haiti?  TWICE?  Better yet, who gets to teach kids (impressionable fourth graders, that is) about it later??

It would take days for me to type up all that I saw/experienced/learned in Haiti whether it be from the Haitian people we met, the priests and religious sisters that accompanied us, or my mission team of incredible young adults.  If you're my friend and you live life with me, you'll get to see all those lessons unfold and shape who I am in the future.  But, I'll put it in the cliff notes "Top 5."

Top Five Lessons Learned in Haiti

1. When you give your life to God, ridiculously amazing things happen in your life and you're given complete joy. Thank you, Columbian Sistesrs of the Sacred Heart for witnessing this to me.

2. Just because they aren't Haitian, you still treat others with dignity and respect that they deserve.  Thank you, Fr. Rick, for pointing this out to our whole team in the hotel the morning back from Haiti.

3. Mass by far is the greatest gift to the world and my life that there is.  Where else can you share something in common all over the world, no matter where you go?  There is beautiful unity in the Catholic Church and you see this when you celebrate Mass in another country.

4. God beautifully weaves peoples' paths together for wonderous purposes.  Thanks to my mission team and their informal (like really informal...on the back of a pickup truck) testimonies of how God has "interrupted" their lives and saved them from all their plans of destruction! :)  Major shout outs to Evan, K-Duff, Morgan, Brea, Leah, Veronica, Caitlin, and Nic for trusting me enough to share their life with me in specific.  I was truly blessed this week by getting to know you better.

5.  I'm stuck with Haiti forever.  There's a difference between stuck WITH Haiti and stuck IN Haiti.  Right now, I'm their advocate, encouraging those I know to share their wealth with a country that has so little.  But, awesomely enough, I don't despair for Haiti because the faith-filled people, just like me, know that the deepest longings of their hearts will never go unanswered.  God loves us and is ever victorious..even in the most dire of circumstances.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good Friday

Part Two: Good Friday...The day the Catholic Church (and Christian churches alike) remember Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.

I had to go to work on Good Friday, which made me sad.  It's like I think that I can't live a religious life and work...which is completely ridiculous to sit here and type, but it's how I behave.  I was dreading school because I couldn't "meditate" on God all day (like I really would have anyway!) and INSTEAD I had to finish my report cards AND lesson plan for the next week. 

Then, enter Fr. Rick into my head (again) and all the people who are workers for the Church.  Here are people whose busiest week of the year is Holy Week.  They don't get any time off....ever, during that week.  Does God just forsake them?  NO!  There has to be promise in their days too.  So, why couldn't this be true of my life??

There have been many times (at school mostly) where I've had entirely too much that needed to get done in one day just for me to keep my job.  And always, without fail, I get these things done WHEN I offer them to God first.  So, here I was: 7:15am Good Friday morning saying, "Lord, I'm mad at you (see Holy Thursday post) but I know you are the ONLY One who can help me get all this done....so here goes."

And, boy did it go!  Not only did I finish my report cards, I was able to lesson plan for the new week, AND an incredibly generous mom helper came and did my copies, too!  It was all done AND I was ahead!  Shocking!  With those things out of the way, I felt like I was really able to enter the Way of the Cross procession we had with CL later that afternoon without thinking I neglected something at school. 

My Good Friday was amazing and not because I escaped school (please, I still had a ridiculous amount of papers to grade on Saturday) but because I was able to embrace my job as part of my vocation--as a way to love God on his Holiest Week of the year.  And this was freedom!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Holy Thursday

My first installment is the FIRST day of the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday or the celebration of Jesus' last supper with His apostles.  It's also the day we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist AND the commissioning of priests...so it's a big deal!

We're also focused on when Jesus stooped down and washed his friends' feet.  A sign of ultimate humility, especially for someone who was God!

I attended Holy Thursday Mass at St. John's downtown and was surprised to see hardly any people in the pews and more priests than I could count!  We had the privilege of having the assistant Bishop be with us AND priest-to-be Deacon Dustin Boehm....and Roncalli 2002 graduate.  (my class...just sayin)

I will never forget the message of Dustin's homily...sometimes the word "servant" is just a word...but Jesus put flesh to those words when he washed the disciples feet or mounted the cross.  Today, since Christ lives NOW, priests put flesh to those words...going to be alone every night so he can spend his waking moments serving his brothers and sisters (God's creatures.)  The priest does this simply to show us Christ now, because without the priest's life, words wouldn't be enough.

Dustin's insights made me want to live better.  Sure, it's not necessarily a committed choice, but I too, go to bed alone every night.  And I've asked myself several times, "What's the deal, God?  What's wrong with me?  Why can't I just get married like everyone else already?"  This Mass helped me ask the REAL question underneath all of the superficial ones..."God, what are you asking of me NOW?" 

I don't have a husband, I don't have kids...so what is He asking me to pay attention to instead?  I instantly was made aware of all these things that limit me seeing what my purpose is today because I don't stoop down to serve others.  Instead, I think I'm owed something (like a day off for Easter..haha).  I see my vanity, my immense pride, not loving my students well, not seeing God's delight in me because I don't delight in others, etc etc.

This immediate awareness into my heart on Holy Thursday made me see that I truly NEED a Savior...someone who can walk with me amidst all my limits and motivate me to keep going when it feels hopeless.  I recognize this Savior at daily Mass, in the middle of my family and friends, and in front of prayer that I've stayed ever faithful to since my silent retreat.  My heart was crying out, "I desire you, O Lord." just like the saints say!

THEN...I screwed up five minutes later.  Of course.  I was hungry, so I went to get food and missed the bus to go on a tour of Churches in the city that night and "sit with Jesus"...an action to similar to what Jesus' disciples were asked to do before He was handed over to be crucified.  Instead of me spending my night in peaceful prayer with my friends, I ended up driving around the city like mad trying to find the group.  Crying and cursing God the whole way because I thought we had this mutual understanding that I was going to spend time with him.

Should I have gotten food?  I guess not, but I didn't feel like the punishment fit the crime.  I was ticked at God for probably the first legit time in my life.  THAT in itself shows growth because I don't think I've ever thought of God as real enough to get mad at.  Holy Thursday night, I basically went to bed frustrated....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lessons Learned During The Triduum

The Triduum (Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday) are considered by the Catholic Church to be the three holiest days of the entire year.  And yet, I didn't get a single day off to celebrate them.  Yes, I was bitter.  How's a girl supposed to live a life of holiness when she's got progress reports due on Good Friday and papers to grade on Easter weekend?

How can I make Christ the center of my life when I feel like so often the circumstances are totally against it?

And, as always, God responds to my foolishness and helps me see.  The Church is an institution with over 2,000 years of wisdom, so these Holy Days really can't be disputed.  Despite how tired I was or how much I thought I had to do, I made all the gestures of Holy Week priorities and kind of left the rest to fall into place.

When you pay attention to life (in the moment, not just when you're praying at night or riding home from events or whatever...) you discover that the present is rich in intensity.  The events of the last three days of my life are entirely too much to write in one post.  So I'm breaking it up into three (or four) installments.  In the end, it helps me put words to a deep experience of Christ's passion and Resurrection and what exactly it has to do with my life.  If it helps you too, GREAT!  An added bonus!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Incurable Wounds

I was reading today a reflection from a hermit monk that lived in 397.  This actually makes me laugh even as I'm typing it.  "WHY? I'm a reading something from a monk in 397?  What does his life possibly have to do with mine in this 21st century??"

This is how I know that Christ is real--because writings of the heart from 1600 years ago still resonate with my experience today.  This hermit was talking about how we have the same stench with us that was with Lazarus before he was raised by Jesus from the dead.  These gross sins that make us ugly in the way we hurt others, attach to things that make us unhapy, or make gods out of things that are finite.  We stink, basically of these festering wounds that cannot be cured on our own.  We might not be paying attention to our stench all the time, but it's there and you see when things kind of fall apart!

So, am I screwed?  Can I be saved?  How can all my hurt, anxiety, desire to control and manipulate have any kind of purpose?

It is in front of these questions, that the deepest need of my heart screams, "NO, I'm not screwed!"  There is a balm, medicine, an answer to all of these wounds--and it's a PERSON.  His name is Jesus.  It's NOT just positive thinking into some kind of fairy tale...He's real.  And through my exposure to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, an increase in my prayer life, and the fact that my idols are kind of crumbling before me all the time, I'm starting to see.

I have overcome (and am continuing to work in overcoming) some serious heartbreak (some done directly to me and others putting hope in false things!)  But, I would never excuse this suffering for anything, because it is in this desperateness that I'm finding peace and solace in something much more real, reliable, and constant than I've ever found.

My only hope is that I can continue to fall in love with Christ who I'm seeing more and more real every day and that the attractiveness of this Presence in my life makes me attractive for the world to see.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Word from St. Susanna School

I felt especially moved to share the most recent article I wrote in my classroom newsletter.  Every week I use the space to write a note from me to the parents of my fourth graders and it's turned into a little mini-blog in its own rite!

Hope you enjoy!


So, the BIG visit we’ve been looking forward to all year from the Accreditation team of the Archdiocese FINALLY came yesterday!

With people in our building all day, I wasn’t exactly nervous, just very aware of my teaching: How was I speaking to my students?  Did I have all my materials prepared?  Are these lessons engaging to the students?  Is my room looking nice?

It’s amazing the clarity that is brought when you know someone is watching.

Then it hit me: SOMEONE IS WATCHING US ALL THE TIME!  God, our Father, the Creator, has never left us.  He sees me mess up, not care, shrink on some of my responsibilities, yet He still blesses me with this awesome community here at St. Susanna, with motivated and curious fourth graders and amazingly supportive parents.  I should be living every day as if I were up for review (like yesterday) because it is in my daily life and choices that I’m either giving God glory or forgetting about Him.  May I always be helped to remember that there’s always ONE MORE in my classroom of 19 students.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In the Silence....

I know. I know.  It's been awhile since my last post.  But this does NOT mean that I haven't had my share of life in the last few weeks.

And I've been thinking forever, "I need to blog about THAT!"  Now, here it is.  Three weeks later.  But, with some awesome insight.

I had the great opportunity of taking a SILENT retreat this Spring Break at St. Meinrad.  It was nothing huge--just three and a half days of me (attempting) to not turn on my phone or check my email AND not speaking.

What came out of the silence was LOUD AND CLEAR! 

1) The need for discipline in my attitude towards life.  I had no idea how many times a day I'm thinking about the future, worrying about it or fantasizing about it, or thinking about the past (wishing for it back OR regretting it)
2) The desire and call to live a truly authentic life.  One that is in unity with how Jesus lived here on Earth and how the saints continue to show us how it's possible to live today.  I want my thoughts, my words and my actions to all be in unison--with no more war!  I want to truly desire how I know I should act--not just act that way to impress people. (and this has caused probably the largest growing pain of all!)
3) The goodness of Sacred Scripture in my life.  It's amazing, but before I was asked to give a talk recently on this subject, I tried to pretty much avoid any personal reading of the Bible.  I've had a few bad encounters with people who I thought knew the Bible better than I did and it just made me discouraged.  This silent retreat, with my spiritual director's help and all the other books I was reading, hit HARD for me the need to put Scripture into my daily life.  IT is what I want to fill my mind now instead of all the other crap I make up...IT is the truth.
4) A huge, huge need for silence.  I live most of the day in a reactionary stance to whatever is going on in front of me.  Wouldn't it be nice to truly LIVE instead of just REACT? 

My time at St. Meinrad was one of the greatest, FULLEST moments of my young adult life and I realized that although I can't take silent retreats all the time, I CAN practice silence every day.  And my heart longs for it.  Times in the day where I'm quiet--not that situations or quiet, or that I'm even in a quiet place, but that I'm truly at peace in my heart, head, and showing it in my actions.

Now, this hasn't made life easier by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I've cried every day since Wednesday wanting/desiring to live this life of holiness that I'm not yet at.  I want to love my friends freely, I want to not worry about the future, I want to trust in God's unconditional love and mercy for me...but I have a lot of thoughts/habits that have been building up for YEARS that don't come crashing down in a week.

And so, I'm experiencing the pain (suffering) of detaching from myself, my plans, my ideas and truly living the present--no matter how ugly the present may seem to me or how scary!  And I'm asking for God to make this suffering joy-filled...whatever THAT means.  But the saints did it, so it must be possible for me, too.

It's analogous to me of running a race--you can't sprint a marathon right when you've just decided to get your butt off the couch.  The training process is painful, but little by little, you begin making progress.  For me, the progress this morning was looking at my students with love DESPITE the fact that they keep making some of the laziest mistakes on their work I've ever seen.  But, I was patient, calm and it was fresh in my head that they are only ten year-olds.

There might be a lot of uncertainty in my life over what God is asking me to do practically in the future but one thing is for certain--He is here with me.  And in the words of St. Peter, "Lord to who else would we go?  You have the words of eternal life."

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Text Messages I WOULD Have Sent

"Lent is a time of new beginnings..." the paragraph I read to my fourth graders said today.  It's been on my heart for a few weeks now that text messaging is the ultimate cop-out in my life.  It's a way to not have to deal with the drama of people's human emotions or uncomfortableness and just get what you want out of them!  Text messaging saves time and does not require too much of myself...Perfect.

Wrong.  I miss talking on the phone to people or having to say more than five words back and forth.  So, I decided that giving up text messaging was my Lenten sacrifice this year.  So, I've made it two and a half days and it's HARD.  A way of contact that I lean on every day...so I "offer it up" and remember that, in the end, text messaging (and even those who I am contacting with it) does not determine my happiness or really even aid it!

I am discovering, though, that my intentions behind text messaging aren't all bad.  Yes, sometimes I might text someone when I should have spoke to them face to face and I only use text to get a quick answer at of someone.  But a lot of times, my texting is meant to bring a smile to someone's face.  And so, here is my list of texts I could have sent over the last two and a half days, but sacrificed.  The recipients are left a secret! :)

1. My MATH Bowl team came in first place tonight!
2. I need a beer...
3. Happy Ash Wednesday!
4. I miss seeing you around....
5. School of Community is on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday nights. Here are the times....(you wouldn't believe how many texts I get about that!)
6. I'm so happy for you!
7. Yes! I can babysit Friday night!
8. Have a wonderful day!  I was thinking about you at Mass this morning!
9. Can we put a date on the calendar for spritual direction?
10. Missioning is making me lose my mind...
11. Report Cards aren't due until Wednesday!  Thank God!
12. I didn't see daylight today.
13. Were you praying for me?  Because some crazy stuff happened this morning...
14. Happy Birthday!
15. Nice Ash!
16. I can't stop thinking about this Eucharist talk!

You get the picture....Here's to you, texting.  Like anything else, an piece of technology that can be used to dehumanize OR elevate humanity by putting a smile on someone's face.  How's your intentions??

Sunday, February 27, 2011

(A Spiritual) Blast from the Past

A journal entry written one year ago.  I had the privilege of searching through some old journals a few weeks ago and I found this gem.  It's a beautiful witness of my encounter with a LIVING Christ that I didn't really have before...

The weird thing is, I just had this SAME desperation I was feeling over a year ago LAST NIGHT with completely different circumstances and He SAVED me again...in a new way, but with the same embrace.

To put it in context, about a year ago, I was going through a break up with a man I loved, him finding someone else and preparing to marry her all in the same season.  I was truly broken.  But God allowed this for me because it forced me closer to Him.

"Vision of me at Mass looking at all the other 'happy couples' and families and judging why they might be unfulfilled. (to make myself feel better) and Jesus (or my image of dark, rustic, bearded Jesus) took his hands to my face and gazed upon me and said, 'Don't pay attention to what others are doing--stay with me, I know this is hard but let's keep working.  I'm with you.'

He made no promises of when it would be over, but I knew with that gaze that there was someone looking at me--looking at how much I have to fight malicious words, thoughts, guilt and confusion.  He saw me, embraced me with the gaze that said, 'Let's keep going.'

With this vision I'm reminded of what truly needs to happen tonight so I'm not enveloped in the darkness of yet another, hard, monotonous week that I loathe.  And so I turned the cell phone off and here I am with you.  Because only in putting myself with you am I ever going to be healed.  Help me to love you more.  Help me to call/show others to love you more.  Erase my criticism and my doubt.

You are here.  My being longs for you: one who loves my desire, on who delights in my beauty, one who has MADE a special plan just for me that will make life increasingly clearer.

I am doing everything I can, Lord, to abandon myself to your will.  Look with favor on me and give me a special part to play in this adventure.

Breathe your life into the activities I already do so I can be made new in those as well.  I don't want to just settle but REALLY be moved.  Educate me furhter on this as I gaze upon the crucifix."

When I read this entry, I ask myself, "Who is this girl?"  It doesn't even sound like me which is LIVING PROOF that the Holy Spirit lives and moves in us.   Thank you, Lord, for the love and patience and MERCY you have had with me this year.  I am in wonder more and more every day of your mysterious, yet deeply satisfying, ways.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a Good Day...

1. Mucinex. 
How is it possible that two little tablets can make so much snot come out of your nose?  It's amazing how much more energy I have when my head doesn't feel like it's going to explode off my shoulders.

2. MyFitnessPal.com
I should also lump "Zumba" into this category.  I'm very excited about my turn towards better health that started in late November.  I joined http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ to start counting my calories and share that with my friends and family who are also members.  (It's free if you are interested!)  I also joined the YMCA and started taking Zumba classes about 3-4 times per week.  It's high energy and full of dance moves and I don't have to feel ashamed about sweating!  (As I do sometimes when line dancing...I mean come on, you can't really woo the men that way!)  Anyway, I've lost eight pounds so far, but more simply, I'm just happy to be taking care of the body God gave me.

3. Outdoor Recess
My students FINALLY got to play outside today and I got them out of my classroom!  No wonder we are all sick together...it's because we never leave!

4. Hope for the Future
I have Christ in my life, whose love outweighs any trial that may come my way and THIS is a reason to celebrate!  Also, I just officially sent in my application to receive a grant to get my master's degree, so I'm pretty pumped about that too and I'm SURE we'll see more blog posts about that year-long adventure!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Secret Hunger

Published in a daily reflection of January’s Magnificat.

“By the heart we understand the most secret part of the soul, where joy, and sadness, fear, or desire, and whatever we call sentiments or affections is formed.  Then the love of God in the heart is that sweet attraction which draws us incessantly to Him, which desires to enjoy him, delights to be busied with him, tastes always a new pleasure in him as the confidant of its joys and pains, it lives under the liveliest impressions of its sovereign good and intimately enjoys his continual presence.
…What is this cry of the heart, this unceasing desire, attraction of the soul—this secret hunger which calls every moment after a happiness it can never reach on earth?...
You give to the soul your delight in her, the purest joys in foretaste of the torrents of your eternal inebriations—speaking to the soul, you consume, at all times, and in all places, in silence or in the noise, in deepest darkness, or brightest day.”

---Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (was the first American canonized saint, a mother of five, widowed, and founded the American Sisters of Charity)

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton rocks and I’ve known this since I was in college.  I used to have quotes from her taped to my mirrors so that when I dried my hair, I could read them.  They were always about vocation…living only for God’s will and not our own, etc. and that attitude was what I aspired to be as a 20 yr old and now as a 27 yr old!

The “secret hunger” that she speaks of in this above reflection is becoming for me more of a hunger pang…more and more intense in its longing.  I want to know God fully and I want to live my life so other people can know God fully.  And in the midst of all of this, God is filling me with a deep sense of satisfaction and joy that makes me glow as if a candle was lit inside of me and warming my insides!

The mild satisfaction of this “secret hunger” actually makes me crave even more…which is frustrating because I want everything and I want it NOW.  But, the more I am aware of this hunger…this ability to love God as I was truly created to love…it is HERE that I will find my greatness and my path in life!  What will become of this hunger??  It’s in pursuit of this answer that makes the adventure of life completely worthwhile!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Transforming Limits

This blog was made possible by a snowstorm.  I was supposed to go to Vincennes today to visit a friend, and instead, wound up at home.  I told my friend, Caitlin, God was probably asking me to pray all day.  Ha.  Could I even handle that?  It HAS been an hour…

I would love to be God.  Immediately. Not have any limits.  Do everything perfectly.  Help anyone and everyone without letting them down.  Never get tired in my work.  Have an unending amount of love for people without being disappointed.  To actually do what I mean to do…and not the ways I screw up my intentions.

I almost started out this blog post with “I want to be Jesus.”  But you know what that means, right?  You’re God in a human body.  You have the knowledge and power to change the entire world, but are limited by people’s freedom.  Yuck.  Limits.  Having to deal with other people’s limits.  And don’t even get me started with dying on the Cross.

I’m in tension ALL THE TIME because of this desire to do GREAT THINGS and this inability to do them.  Not only because I am limited by my endless laundry list of sins, but also time constraints, money constraints, not being able to bi-locate, not knowing what to say in certain situations, etc.  I’m so limited and I hate it!

In my prayer/reflection/quiet time with God this morning, I remembered this reflection written in January’s Magnificat by Elisabeth Leseur, a married French laywoman who died in 1914 and whose canonization is underway.  The fact that she’s married and able to write with such clarity to God is the first blessing to me this morning because I’m having a hard time understanding the married vocation as of recent. (How can a guy NOT be a complete distraction and actually lead you closer to God?...but that’s another day’s writing entirely) But secondly, and most importantly, it’s a beautiful witness to what it means living an infinite desire for life within a limit you can’t change.  Our only hope is to give our limits to our Creator, who can fashion us the way He needs us! Enjoy!

“Material concerns, sometimes too heavy for my already burdened body, time wasted, relationships that hold no attraction for me, the effort to be pleasant and smile when all of me longs for recollection and for only close friends—all this constitutes my hidden cross, which does not elicit sympathy or admiration as illness or misfortune does.
To accept equally the impossibility of an active life through good deeds, relationships and regular work, and the impossibility of a wholly contemplative life that my family obligations, the preferences of those around me, and my circumstances prevent.  To do all I can for others, to take refuge often in my ‘inner cell’ to pray, to adore, and to unite myself to my beloved God.  To make of everything—prayer, suffering, self-denial and action—an interior offering for others and for God’s glory, as well as for those I love.
O my God, ‘give me an adoring soul, an atoning soul, an apostle’s soul,’ and do with me what you want according to my pact with you.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Iced In and Thankful

I had a super busy week this week...or at least that was the plan.  Catholic Schools Week, report cards, one-on-one student conferences, conferences with parents during all my plan periods, etc.  The "to-do" list was ridiculous.  One of those times where you are forced to say, "Okay, God, I give you this day because I know I can't get it all done!"

Then the unthinkable happens...a HUGE ICE STORM.  A few days of school are cancelled and BANG...I've got all the time in the world.  I was sharing with Fr. Rick today that God's always surprising (and a little funny) about how He takes care of things.

Fr. Rick said, "Maybe this was His way of telling everyone to slow down." It's sooo true!  Here's to a few days of simplicity...a little gift from God.  A time where I can get all my papers graded, read things I've been wanting to read for months, and get some sleep!  When lived intentionally days of "nothing" can really honor God just like the busy ones.

And my prayer when it DOES start to get busy again will be to never forget this Lord who hears my plea and looks at me with undeserved mercy.  That I continue to fall in love ever deeper with this real Presence.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The New York Encounter NOT Encountering New York

It's been a week and a half since I got back from Communion and Liberation's annual New York Encounter.  This event keeps getting bigger and bigger--somewhat unintentionally.  The organizers of the event (and their friends) find people who have something interesting to present about life, they are invited, and in turn, everyone present is educated to some new perspective on reality and the inclinations and interests that God puts into hearts.

The objective of the weekend was to "celebrate the joy of life at the level of the Infinite."  With that objective, ANYONE can participate because everyone was created with a heart of infinite need and want. 

So what did I see?  Poster presentations on Flannery O'Connor and the Financial Crisis of the past two years.  A play called "The Tidings of Mary" written by Paul Claudel. A talk on if science and faith can BOTH be believed.  A book talk on Fr. Giussani's Religious Sense. A "Night in New York" with several performances from musicians that typically perform in the subway system of the city.

Underneath it all was a begging to the participants:  What causes these presenters to live this way?  Who looks at life this way?  What EXACTLY is going on here??  In comes the answer of "Jesus Christ" such a small name, yet such a powerful Presence that it generates LIFE in front of the most unexpected of circumstances--800 "friends" that you've never met, interest in subjects you've never been interested in before (I mean, the financial crisis, really??) and, most unexpected, a vigor for life when you go back home because in New York, you were reminded that life is positive.  Nothing is meaningless, nothing is uninteresting with the correct lens.

And all of this without leaving the block of 34th St. and 8th Ave. all weekend.  Because, in the end, the Statue of Liberty (which I've seen a couple of times) is meaningless if I don't know where true liberty comes from.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Encountering New York

Well, it happened.  I've used every ounce of energy I have to type up some notes from my weekend of learning and prepare for this next week of school!  There will be more to come, but right now, please check out a link at an event I went to in New York this weekend.

It was truly life changing!

http://www.newyorkencounter.org/

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Humble Prayer

I've been relfecting on this all week:

"God longs for us to speak 'let it be done unto me according to Thy Word' so that the greatest miracle of all can happen: a saint be made out of a sinner."  (Peter Kreeft's Prayer for Beginners)

In these recent weeks, I've seen the numerous times that God is offering sainthood to me, but I MUST choose it.  Will I be humble admist criticisms (constructive and not so) from my boss, coworkers, friends and family?  Can I love without possessing?  Can I accept what God gives instead of always wishing for something better?  Can I see His goodness when I'm so blinded by what I think is best?

May this week I choose to live as a saint and may God's grace do the rest...in the ordinary ways of life.

As Mary once uttered, "May it be done unto me according to Thy Word."  Come, Lord Jesus!