Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Late Have I Loved You (An Epilogue)

It's only been about three months since I last wrote here, but it feels like a lifetime. This heart has achieved a rebirth and a new life. Much of what I wrote on this blog came from a heart unsure, a heart that wanted to believe, a girl who was living as the person she thought she ought to be, mostly because she feared who she really was. I saw how silly and unsatisfying that double-living was, so I decided to discover who I really am, down to my roots, deep in my heart, when all the walls were torn down.

I embarked on this new journey to discover the Truth and found myself on a twisted trail of thorns, suddenly painfully aware of my deepest miseries, my deepest flaws, wounds I had inflicted and wounds I had received. I cried out to God from these depths and asked why, why must there be so much pain? Why can't I move on? It was the most honest I'd been with God in a long, long time. For several days I was empty, but not in despair. I had given it all, all of my misery and pain to God saying, "Here. I. Cannot. Do. This. Any. More." And I waited to see what He would do with that, because there simply was not another thing I could do about it.

At first, I knew only emptiness. From that came a new knowledge of my littleness, my utter nothingness. I understood with new clarity that in the grand scheme of the world, I am nothing more than an insignificant speck. Once I let this knowledge sink in, I noticed that slowly, ever so gently, God was filling me with His own love. His gentle hands tuned my heartstrings and I began to hear the faintest notes of a new melody. Around me I sensed a force field of angels hacking away at the thorns that choked me. I dreamed that I was wandering aimlessly in the depths of a darkening madness until suddenly, the angry swirling around me turned to roses that fell from the sky like snowflakes (I'm sure St. Therese had a hand in that one). I danced in this garden, my mind and heart free from the chains that had imprisoned me. The Gardner embraced me and pointed me home. When I woke up from the dream, I knew in my heart that it was real. The mess was gone. There was peace and joy coursing through me. I was healed.

As I looked back at how I used to relate to God, I heard Him say (in the style of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything) "I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen." My mouth fell open a little as I let those words sink in. I remembered that I had written entire posts here about "giving God my pen" to write my love story. As if that were enough! Every day, in every mass, He offers His heart in the Eucharist, to nourish, refresh, and strengthen us. He offers His love yet we continue to search for it elsewhere (like that Tenth Avenue North song "By Your Side:" "Why are you still searching, as if I'M not enough?"). He wants us, our hearts, everything we are--not just our pens! He wants to be a part of our love stories, not just the Author!

Lights went on everywhere. In the next few weeks, I slowly began to rediscover the relationship I once had with God. I no longer wanted to resort to my default, almost mechanical "this is how a good Catholic girl should act" mode. If anyone knows how imperfect I am, it's Him. He doesn't need or want me to pretend to be someone I'm not. In this way, I began to learn how deeply in love He is with me--with each of us. But not because of anything that we do, simply because of who we are. We give Him great delight when we do things out of love for Him, but His love for us is unconditional and He desires simply for us to accept it deep in our hearts, with our truest selves.

This is terribly intimidating, I admit. I had let God love me as a protective Father, but suddenly I realized that He wanted more--not only to love me, but also to romance me, speak tenderly to my heart, show me how beautiful I am to Him, to love me like a Bridegroom loves His bride. I knew that I was caught--I had never let Him love me this way before because of that silly, irrational fear that if I did, He would "make me be a nun." (You know that you know what I'm talking about!) But I looked at my situation and saw that He had me right where He wanted me. For the first time in 3 years, I was really and truly free--crush-less and loving it. So, because it was SO adorable the way He foiled my plans and sneakily took the pen I gave Him to write out this romance between He and I, I prayed:

Jesus, here I am! I am healed--help restore my heart! Make it new and beautiful. Tell me what you really think of me. Tell me You love me. Romance me away from all the stupid things that capture my heart for brief moments. Capture my heart for good, beauty, truth. Draw me in, draw me close. Cover me in love. Make me never want to turn away from You again. Make me forget ever wanting to love another creature. Make me know that You are enough. You are Love and Love is all we need. Show me who I really am. Give me the courage to be that person, that woman whom You love so deeply, so tenderly. Let me know You.

These are the words that He has written on my heart, and if you search your own, you'll find something similar written there. And don't worry--it doesn't mean you'll necessarily be a nun! All it means is that this is the kind of love we're created to desire, and it's a desire no man can ever fully satisfy because "only in God will we find the truth and happiness we never stop searching for."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Suspense and Incomplete

When I began this blog a little over a year ago, it was intended to be a blog for young single women. As one of those girls who had never been in a relationship, I was tired of people who weren't single telling me, "Someday it'll happen to you. When you least expect it, the perfect guy will find you." Easy for them to say, I thought. I was tired of constantly looking ahead and wishing my life away, waiting for Someday to get here. I wanted to start living in the present, to accept myself for who I was "in suspense and incomplete." I wanted to learn how to live with a "single purpose," of coming to know myself better as a woman of God, so that when Someday comes, I will be ready. I wanted to share that journey with other girls like me, who had maybe been looking for themselves in all the wrong places. I wanted to stop pining for Mr. Right, so I set off on a journey.

The journey I have described in these posts has been my own journey of self-discovery in my singleness. Single with purpose. It was here that I wrote of the spiritual, the quirky, the inspiring, the passionate, the whatever-happened-to-be-on-my-mind-at-the-time. Each post I wrote taught me a little something about myself. Most especially, I came to realize that when I had reached a fork in the road, I heard Jesus whisper to me in the night, "You are mine, first and forever." He asked me to trust Him, so I took His hand. But as I followed Him down the road, I felt my heart breaking in ways I hadn't known possible. I kept looking back at what could have been down the other road, at the dreams that I still held onto. Looking back caused me to stumble and fall into deep holes along the way, but He always came back and picked me up, brushed me off, wiped away my tears. Together, we slowly picked up the pieces of my broken heart and broken dreams. Now, as I described in my previous post, I have found my way back home. He has mended the pieces of my heart and given me new dreams. Now I stand stronger and wiser, a woman rooted deeply in the heart of Christ.

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to continue writing here only as long as I was single (I didn't want to become a 'Someday it will happen to you!' pep-talker.), but now that I have come to a place of such peace in my vocation, a place where new dreams have come alive in my heart, I find that I cannot continue writing here. It has been a lovely journey, made lovelier by all the positive comments I have received from you lovely readers! But I believe this is where this particular journey ends...the next one is only just beginning.

His Grace is enough. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, March 6, 2011

If You Would Come Back Home

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater. Though I was only a student there about eight months ago, it feels like a lifetime ago. As I sat in mass over the weekend I looked around and realized that I recognized only a handful of faces. The other hundreds were new, yet very much the same as the ones I knew there. It was as if everything had changed, yet also as if nothing had changed at all. Or maybe it was just that I had changed.

In the reunions I had with friends, in the beauty of the mass, in the buildings I called 'home' for four years I found myself again this weekend. For months now I have felt so stuck and stifled, so lost at home. It has less to do with living at home and working at the same job I've had since I was fifteen and more to do with a sick feeling that I had left a part of myself back at school. In all of the experiences I had in my four years at college, I did a lot of growing up and self-discovering. I began to really become me. But then I grew comfortable, bored. I stopped stretching myself and challenging myself to do more. I found my comfort zone and I stayed there, collecting dust, branching out only when absolutely necessary. By the time I realized what I had done, I tried to break free and get on with my life, but I found that I had forgotten who I was, and who I was becoming. I had forgotten where I came from.

In the past few months, I've been able to see that my parents planted all kinds of seeds of faith in me, but it wasn't until I reached Franciscan and chose to let God nurture them that they really began to bloom. Then when there were so many distractions around me, I tried to ask Him to stop. I told Him that I had had enough growing, that I was content to just stick with what I had. It's like asking the surgeon to stop stitching you up when he's only partially finished: "I can take it from here," you might slur under the anesthesia. Then you'd get up from the table with a gushing, gaping wound in your side, stumble and fall to floor. That is basically what I did.

I think all I really wanted was more time. I wanted more time with my friends, one more round of bowling, one more late night study party at Tim Horton's, one more adventure in the city. This weekend, I didn't exactly get what I would consider my dying wish, but it was definitely my living wish. I wanted to reconnect with the 'home' where I made so many mistakes, where I did not do perhaps as much as I could or should have done to prepare for my future. The place where I realized that my parents are wonderful, but they are only human. The place where I realized that love is not as simple as it seems. The place where I glimpsed all I could be and I tried to hide from it.

I went back to that place. Jesus came into my heart in the Eucharist, Mary held my hand as I walked down memory lane, the Holy Spirit moved in me to forgive and let go of the lingering hurts and regrets. When I drove away from campus yesterday, I was suddenly whole again. I felt complete. Even in the polluted air along the Ohio River, I breathed easier than I had in years. Suddenly, I was back where I left off in my becoming process, almost as if nothing had ever happened to disrupt it. Except that now there was a mysterious, incredible strength inside me that I had not known I could possess. I know that strength comes from God alone. I am certain that even when I was that stubborn patient lying weakly on the floor, oblivious to everything except my own pain, He was mending the pieces with such a gentle hand that I could not feel it.

But I felt it yesterday. I felt it like a warmth all the way through me, a light that I had not seen before, a strength and determination that I had never known. When I pulled into my parents' driveway yesterday, I think I truly came home for the first time. It's good to be back.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Sweetly Broken, Wholly Surrendered"

It's funny how freeing it is to surrender all to God. It is difficult. It requires patience, and practice. But it is so freeing. Today I was able to surrender something I've held onto for quite a few years. It made me want to listen to this song. So I did. Several times. And decided to share it since it's so great. Listen and enjoy. :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You say tomato, I say to-mah-to

The past few weeks have provided me with many opportunities to place my trust in God. These trials made me realize, for one thing, how much I dislike the word 'trust.' It rhymes with 'rust' which to me implies something weak and decaying, two adjectives antonymous to the concept of 'trust.' This may seem petty, but, like all English nerds, I'm all about diction and finding the perfect word. (The thesaurus is perhaps one of my favorite inventions.) So as I prayed last night trying to understand how to 'trust' in my human weakness, I was delighted to hear God whisper mercifully into my heart, "Surrender." He knows me so well.

The word 'surrender' seems so much more appropriate to me. After foolishly trying to win a battle on my own, I raise the little white flag over my heart. In my weakness, I have no choice but to open my hands and offer myself back to God saying, "I am not strong enough to do this alone. Jesus, repair what I have done badly. I thank you for all things." Then the devil's Jolly Roger drowns in the raging sea, and Jesus calms the storm in my soul.

Constant surrender, then, seems to be the only cure for anxiety, worry, and fear. As the priest reminded us in his homily today, Christ showed us the way to surrender and trust while he was on the cross. He cried out from the seemingly hopeless weakness of the human flesh, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet then He surrendered Himself, even amid his overwhelming suffering: "Into your hands, I commend my spirit." As in the garden the night before, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by....yet not my will, but yours be done!" Even God had to surrender constantly when He humbled Himself to become one of us! It is a comfort to know we are in good company when we surrender our hearts and souls to the will of God.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Free to Live

As I drove around yesterday, I thought about how nice it would be to go visit a friend. I drove past the highway and wondered what it would be like to be able to just take that on-ramp and go, to have the time and money to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Wouldn't it be nice to be a nomad, a pilgrim soul, travelling wherever the wind carried me, wherever my heart desired? Well, my scattered heart desires to go many places, but the wind seems to have stopped blowing my way. So far, none of my ideas for a new life have been viable, and I am not brave enough to pack my suitcase and step out into the big world alone. Until recently, I felt as if I were stuck in the mud in my hometown. A reality check reminded me that there are worse things.

The reality check came in the form of the death of a former classmate of mine, and the news of a health scare of a good friend. It's strange how much light death sheds on life, especially when death takes someone so young. As I sat with my high school friends at the funeral yesterday, I realized that the casket could have been for any one of us. We never know the day nor the hour when the Lord will call us home. This is not to say that we should constantly be afraid that our time is near, but that we should simply live life to fullest while we have the chance.

Of course, it is so easy to say that this is what we should do, but it's something entirely different to actually do it, especially when we are held back by certain limitations like school, jobs, family responsibilities, or lack of resources. When you see a twenty-three year old put in a box to go underground, you realize that life is short. We should make do with what we have everyday, rather than constantly wish things were different. It is difficult learning how to do this, especially considering the fact that I grew up believing in fairy-tales, believing that if I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together three times, I would wind up where I wanted to be.

Reality check: that only happens in Oz.

In Ohio, you work for what you want. You take on part-time jobs you hate to make enough money to get where you want to be. You take on each day as if you were taking on an army. I learn a little more each day about how to live the life I have, rather than complain that I am not where I want to be. I probably learned more in the last week than I have in the last several months. I took on the task of painting a ceiling, like Michaelangelo (minus the various colors and intricate details, but still...it was my own--plain white--Sistine Chapel). I covered the walls with a "wisp of smoke" tint to compliment the new bedspreads my mom bought. I helped clear farmland by moving large logs, branches, and playing the literal version of pick up sticks. I sat by a fire and made new friends over songs played on banjos under the stars and a full moon. I transplanted beet and collard green sprouts to flats fit for a patchwork greenhouse. I did things I never thought I would do, and I forgot about my worries and my fears. I simply lived.

While I lived, I felt the life springing from the center of my being, the point where Christ lives in my heart. I went to visit Him at the tabernacle in church yesterday and I laid down all of my sorrows and fears, everything that I was worried and anxious about--the girl who died and a friend whose health I feared for. I gave them to Jesus and I said, "I want to trust You, but all of these things are getting in the way. Remind me of Your love." And He did, but it struck me in a new way. Last year, I needed to be reminded that He cares for me deeply, that I am His, first and forever. Now, after all the experiences that have strengthened me and caused me to grow in the last year, God reminded me that we are all His, first and forever. My classmate who passed away, my family and my friends, my coworkers, all of the people who are important to me--all belong to Him. Whether or not they know, and whether or not they care, they are His to give and His to take away. My worries about those I love make no difference, but my prayers provide peace for me and assurance to God that I am placing my trust in Him. My prayers then become a channel of His grace, and I become a channel of His love.

It is difficult to constantly see that what we have here is a gift. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily, routinely nothings, to take everything for granted. But contained in each day is the potential to change a life, to make a difference, to spark a smile. Each person we encounter wants to love and be loved. But so many of us are afraid. So many of us fear taking that risk and making ourselves vulnerable. So many of us hide away for fear of being hurt. So many of us fear our love being rejected. And let's face it--we do get hurt, we are rejected. We are human beings in a human world and our love has limitations. But the Good Lord loves us with an abiding, merciful love--a perfect love. He covers the gaps in our imperfection with His perfection. His love always wins. When our love isn't big enough, His is. It really is. When we accept that, we are free--from worry, fear, anxiety--to truly and simply live.

It's beautiful, really.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Way the Cookie Crumbled

Thanks to an incredible retreat I attended and the beautiful yellow roses my super awesome roommate surprised me with, I had a great Valentine's day last year (read about my experience in the post "Candy Hearts" from last March). It pretty much transformed my heart. It reminded me that the center and source of all love is not in any guy that might come along, but in the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist. He gives His Heart to us at Mass everyday if we are willing and able to accept it. Everyday is Valentine's Day in the Catholic Church, when we are reminded of His incredible Love for us.

Remembering how much love I received last year on this day, I decided to make heart-shaped cookies as little gifts for a few people. This endeavor turned out to be an epic failure in the form of a pile of crumbled cookie with an odd cake-like texture. Even the dark chocolate M&Ms failed to redeem these miserable wafers. But I was able to see in my crumbled mess how utterly imperfect my human love is. My experiences in the last year really showed me that my love is not enough to change a heart. Only when I first embrace the Love that Christ has for me, for the Church, for the world, only when He increases and I decrease, can His love move through me and reach others. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

I used to refer to this holiday as Single's Awareness Day, but it seems that this year it is the exact opposite. I am more aware now than ever that I am never alone, nor can I ever truly love anyone on my own. Christ is there waiting for me to accept His Heart, not just today but everyday. If I think for a second that I can do it alone, I'll end up with another pile of crumbled cookie. And honestly, nobody wants to eat that.