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!