The Edge of Possibility

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     I am the type of person who likes instructions, general guidelines, and examples. When I cook something new I like looking up different recipes for a general idea of what and how much stuff (technical term right there) a certain dish has. When a professor assigns a paper, I want clear instruction and adore an example so I can get a gist for the outline and writing style that the professor wants. Give me a clear, strong skeleton of what you want me to do and I will use my creativity to flesh it out, tweak it, and make it my own.

      Now you can psychoanalyze me to figure out why I am this way (please don’t, it’s rude) but the fact of the matter is that I am this way. I realized recently that how I am is why I am so frightened and frustrated with my life.

    Because it’s unique.

     Sure up to this point I have had the general structure that family life and school has offered me. Growing up with siblings and being in school for sixteen years has lent me an iron frame that I filled in with friends, church, academic success, retreats, and mistakes. Now, with terrifying speed, that frame is coming to an end and there isn’t another one ready-made for me. No, soon I will have to build my own frame.

     I see all the possibilities lying at my feet: job opportunities, further education, literally the whole world at my feet! Yet I stand on the edge of this percipience, toes over open air, not finding the will inside myself to jump. Have you ever experienced that? The knowledge that you have to make a decision and there are numerous options, yet you find yourself frozen with indecision? Desiring to venture off into the unknown, yet are held by the comfort of the known?

     It’s like that moment in Disney’s Tangled where Rapunzel is standing on the edge of her windowsill about to go chase her life’s dream. Yet she hesitates. Looking behind her she sees comfort, a place she knows. Looking below, she sees a world that is strange, new, exciting , and unknown.

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Yet even Rapunzel at that moment has a leg up on me because she knows what she wants, “to see the floating lanterns gleam,” while I have no idea. I want my degree, eventually have a family, and serve God through my life. All great things, but the only concrete one, like Rapunzel’s, is about to be achieved in a year. How am I to chase my dream if I don’t have one yet?

Even if I did everything exactly like Rapunzel, would my story come out exactly like hers? No. Besides the obvious hair deficiency and my lack of ‘smolder’-filled sidekicks, I am not Rapunzel. That seems like a ‘no duh’ statement, but think about it. I am not Rapunzel, I am Amelia. I am not my sister, I am not my friends. I am not the celebrities I admire, or that girl in class who seems to have it all together. No, I am simply me.  How often do we ignore this simple yet defining fact in our lives? In a culture that is constantly barraging it’s populous with ideals in beauty, success, and happiness, that are as daunting as they are unrealistic, it is hard to remember that your life does not, and in a way will not, conform to these standards because it is is unique. We could read every advice article in the world and follow their steps exactly, but it wouldn’t come out like they said because our lives are composed of different events, people, and emotions than the authors.

Our lives are unique.

     Isn’t that wonderfully, terrifyingly beautiful?

     Isn’t it liberating, the thought of uniqueness? Of possibility? Before as I looked at the many options before me I became frozen with fear. The fear of making the wrong choice. Yet if we are all unique, as different from one another as snowflakes, is there such a thing as a ‘wrong’ choice? There will be mistakes of course, regrets here and there, but in the end I made a choice and that is infinitely more satisfying than becoming stagnate with what-ifs.

     I have all the pieces of my life at my fingertips, some I will use, others I will avoid. These pieces I will fit together, piece by excruciatingly small piece, until when I look back I will see a life of my own making. The sunny, bright spots and the dark, moody shadows sketching out who I am. I am on the knife’s edge of possibility, toes dangling over bottomless air, posed and ready to accept whatever unfolds.

Won’t you jump with me?

-Amelia

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Spotlight Sister: St. Martha

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Martha is officially my spirit animal.

The sister of Lazarus and Mary she usually gets a bad reputation of being the busy body, the harsh non-spiritual part of every bible story she is in (a whopping 2 stories). Yet when I heard the Gospel a few Sundays ago I saw her in a whole new light, one that almost perfectly reflected my own spiritual life.

Martha is real. She is human. She gets angry and isn’t afraid to call out the Lord,“if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (Jn 11:21). The best analogy I can give to how I view Martha is that for men Peter is to Jesus as for women Martha is to the Virgin Mary. Mary and Jesus are the perfected role models the Lord gives us to follow while Peter and Martha are the messy humans who try to figure out how to follow Jesus through their brokenness of being perfectly human.

The struggle to just be…

While she is only mentioned twice in the bible I feel she plays an important role in each story. In Luke 10:38-42  we find the classic Mary & Martha story.  Imagine it, Jesus, the one who has cured the blind and lame, the one who has been preaching to crowds of hundreds even thousands has just showed up on her doorstep along with his closest followers. She immediately invites Him in (how could she not?!) and proceeds to serve Him and the rest of her guests determined to pull out all the stops and give Him the very best. She prepares the meal and begins serving the courses, clearing the used table wear, refilling empty cups, all by herself. All the while her sister, Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet not even making an effort to help Martha. Being human, Martha finally had enough and was gutsy enough to approach Jesus asking Him to send Mary to help her (probably with washing the dishes, because who wants to do that alone?). Jesus’ response is so beautiful and puts Martha’s frustration in perspective. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Lk 1041-42).  Martha had fallen into the earthly trap of worrying about worldly matters. Like us she got caught up in the rush of the world and it’s demands letting the anxiety of such demands rule her. So much so that she was unable to be still. She was so worried about serving Jesus and his followers and caring for their needs that she was unable to take a moment, a single moment, to stop and just be in His presence.  

Let go & let God,

Martha’s relatable features doesn’t end there. Oh no! Her other story is just as relatable if not more so. Honestly, I relate to this story better when I put it in the context of the spiritual relationship we have with the Lord. It’s the story of Lazarus’ death. Martha has just lost her brother. Put yourself in her shoes. You have just lost someone you dearly loved, or some major catastrophe has happened in your life.  Martha hears that Jesus is coming and goes straight to Him and her first words to Him are “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”(Jn 11:21). Imagine the anguish, anger and accusation behind those words. “Lord, why did you let this happen?! If you had been here you could have cured him as you did others.” How often when something goes south in our lives do we  wrestle with the Lord asking Him why He let such things happen to us? Martha continues to do so not afraid to show Jesus her hurt. Yet she does not close down entirely, she vents her frustration and then remains open to the love of the Lord. Jesus asks if she believes that He is the Messiah, if she trusts Him completely. He asks each of us this, sometimes daily. He asks us to trust Him, that our pain and trials in life has purpose and that He can help us if we let go and  trust in Him completely. Martha had the courage to answer “Yes Lord.” and actually mean it.

When Jesus orders Lazarus tomb opened Martha, ever the realist, warns Jesus by saying “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days”(Jn 11:39). I have grown to love this line. On the surface we have Martha stumbling in her faith over a practicality of the world. How many times have we stumbled in our faith due to a practicality? When we feel the Lord is calling us to doing something in our faith life but we falter because of obstacles such as money, family, work obligations, etc… On a deeper level though Martha seems to be questioning Jesus. “Lord, there is a stench, do you truly want this mess? You deserve much more than this stinking, messy broken human.” Sometimes we willingly say yes to the Lord and are determined to give everything to Him. Yet as He begins to poke and prod our hearts, He begins to get close to, what the wonderful Mary Bielski refers to as, the tombs of our hearts. The places where we store everything that is rotting and broken in us. We shut Him out in response to this terrifying nearness . Jesus responds to this questioning and gently reminds Martha, and us,“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”(Jn 11:40). That if you believe in Him, if you trust Him with everything, He will transform it into the glory of God. Just as He transformed Lazarus’ stench into breath coming from a now living body.

Martha, Martha, Martha…

I marvel at the strength, courage, messy, stubbornness that is Martha. She is wonderfully, imperfectly human. Someone who sprints and stumbles in turn in her spiritual life just as I do in mine, and she actually knew Jesus! I hope you enjoyed this Spotlight Sister and encourage you to read both Lk 10:38-42 and Jn 11:17-44 and reflect on them, maybe Martha reaches out to you in different, unique way.

–Amelia

St. Martha of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and sister to our hearts pray for us and lead us closer to our Lord, Jesus.

 

 

In the Stillness

It’s okay to be a human being.

Recently on social media there is an inspirational saying that is being shared and is constantly  popping up on my news feeds.

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Ironically instead of being inspired by this truth, I find myself flinching away from it. The reason behind this guilty and pain filled reaction is because this saying highlights the mentality I am currently struggling with. That I am meant to be.

I grew up, and I feel society trained me, with a “doing” mentality. That I was composed of my actions and people’s perception of them. If I got high grades, was nice and agreeable I could earn people’s respect and love. On the other hand, if I was deceitful or overly moody  I would earn their scorn. A seemingly simple two-pronged problem: 1) actions make me. 2) people’s perception of my actions determine whether I’m good or bad. Yet somehow for such a “simple” problem it is incredibly hard to break.

I’ve spent my life in a series of actions, constantly going and doing something. Anything. If there was a brief pause or a lull in the present action I would look to the future. Either with school, my weekly plans, or my life’s direction and plan. I’ve just been constantly going these past 10 years and I honestly didn’t know if I could stop. That is until this school year.

Last summer I had served as a missionary (so much beauty and grace flowed from that time) and at the start of the school year I was excited, high on Christ, and ready to tackle anything! I was ready for a season of doing. Coming out of an eventful summer I was sure God was gonna keep it going. While you might say that I was busy academically with course loads of 19 and 18 hours which “gifted” me with weeks where I could have 6 tests, 3 papers, and a group project due. However, in between those stressful weeks there was a stillness, stagnant quietness in my life. When people would ask me how I was doing my response tended to be “Good, I guess.” Nothing bad was going on in my life (praise be) but nothing new or exciting was happening either. It just was.

At first I fought against this nothingness, this stillness trying to find anything to fill my time and thoughts. I fell into a small depression about what I perceived as a stagnate life. Eventually I gave up my struggle, threw myself into my academic tasks, and attempted to ignore the quietness. It wasn’t until earlier this week while I was in adoration with the Lord that I realized what this quietness in my life was.

Before adoration I had given myself the challenge to just be with the Lord. Not to spend my adoration in journaling and spiritual reading which was my usual routine, but by just being.  It was hard, really hard, but I managed to do it. After I was able to achieve “being” and I spent time just resting in His presence for a while, letting my mind empty of any thoughts, this one thought zipped through my mind with lightning speed. It hit me with the same effect as lightning too. He revealed something that had me sitting up bolt straight in the pew, eyes wide, nerves buzzing as if I had received an electric shock. That learning to be was, in a way, the whole point of my “stagnate” year.

I was so used to going from one thing to the next in rapid succession, like the Energizer Bunny, and I had forgotten how to stop or why I needed to. Jesus gently took me into his hands and held me. Stilling my life and myself from a rush both socially and self-induced. I reacted like any child whose arm is gripped by a parent, restraining them from running around. I resisted and struggled and eventually pouted about this perceived confinement. However, the struggle wasn’t a waste because it awakened a thirst for being within me. It opened my eyes to just how action and “doing” focused my life was. It gave me the longing to make use of this stillness by embracing it instead of fleeing from it.

Brothers and Sisters, we are meant to be.

I had to realize that my actions did not give sole propose to my life. That it was okay to indulge in quiet times and activities that had no useful meanings in the long run. I could be the smartest, most successful person in the world, but if I kept running from the slow and silent times I would be unable to enjoy anything.

For the Present is the Point at which time touches eternity

To be is to exist in the here and now, not in past actions or in future what-ifs. Yes God exists in every point of time past, present, and future, yet it is in the present moment that He reaches out to you. What is history made up of but present moments that have passed and the future is all the possibilities of a moment. It is this day, this hour, this second that the Lord waits for you and how you react determines how the moment passes and what follows. We only have to be still enough to recognize just how precious a gift God gives us in every moment.

The gift of His presence. His presence that is beside us in the rush and in the calm. That surrounds us whatever action we take, whether useful or useless. Evan Koons made the video below which expands on the idea of being in the terms of our innate uselessness because we were never created for use. I invite you to watch his video, even if you have already seen it, and remember the words the Lord whispers to our hearts.

“Be Still and Know that I Am”

{Psalm 46:10}   

–Amelia

 

Go and Love Yourself…

“Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself…”

No matter if it suddenly comes on the radio or if your friend starts humming it, Justin Beiber’s Love Yourself is sure to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. While the song as a whole tells of a relationship filled with use of the other, I keep hearing that one line “you should go and love yourself” in a very different way.

I find, with myself and others, that while strife within relationships is common, rarely do we pull a Mr. Darcy who’s “good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” Instead we forgive, over time, the hurt done to us, because of love for the other.

As human beings we love very easily.

We were created because of love, for love, and to love. Think about your close friends, how did that attachment start? Was it like the C. S. Lewis quote?

C.S Lewis quote on friendship

And slowly that attachment grew stronger through shared experiences until it reached the point of love. A love that helps you forgive past hurts and a love that strengthens you to call your friends out when they’re wrong.

As humans we love one another easily, but how easy is it to love yourself? Was there ever a time when you stood in front of a mirror  and not a single negative thought crossed your mind?

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I can honestly say that I have never experienced that.

Before I go on I want to clarify that I am not going to talk about loving your physical features, which is important, but I would much rather devote a thesis paper to that subject as opposed to a single blog post. No, I’m talking about loving your whole self, not just that one, tiny facet.

We tend to be far more forgiving to others then ourselves, both mentally, physically and spiritually. Maybe you didn’t get that grade you wanted even though you had been studying non-stop for the test, yet you are still beating yourself up over it. Or you fall into the death trap called comparison. Where you compare your whole, messy self to the highlights of other people’s lives. I know I’ve done this with my spiritual life. This past summer I compared my chaotic, stop-and-go relationship with the Lord to the snippets I witnessed of other’s relationships with Him. I didn’t realize that the beautiful, faith filled relationships I had witnessed were just small snapshots. That there were struggles my friends had to face to get to that point of faith. No, I made myself blind to the heartache that is necessary for such growth and focused solely on the pretty, peaceful parts, eventually getting frustrated with my spiritual life when it became stagnate as a result.

 Often we desire so much to get to that future point in our lives where everything is settled, safe, and “perfect” that we begin to exist in this hazy, “someday” ideal and we forget to live and be still long enough in the present moment to love ourselves.

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Here is a thought, if we are unable to love ourselves as we are right now, how can we let God love us? If we think that we can only approach Him when we have everything put together and perfect, we miss the greatest part, to me, of His love.

It’s unconditional.

Jesus wants our mess. It draws Him near to us as a bee is drawn to a flower’s perfume. When we are able to recognize our weaknesses and brokenness in front of the Lord instead of hiding them behind our backs He is able to do something amazing. He gently takes these broken messy parts of ourselves and makes them into something beautiful in return. Just look at the lives of the saints! All were once sinners, but by acknowledging their weakness to the Lord, he strengthens them, supports them, and helps them do things we consider extraordinary.

It is through this humbling, painful, yet oddly freeing process that we begin to love ourselves as He does. We begin to love our strengths along with our weaknesses, our mess along with our perfected parts. We begin to love wholly not selectively.  And you wanna know the kicker? We are then able to love others so much better.

I’m not an expert on this, in fact I have only recently begun my journey of self-acceptance and love through the Lord, but I invite you to join me. If there is one thing I wish you to remember it is that “you should go and love yourself.”

~Amelia

{Scripture Reflections}

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” {Rom 10:8}

I’ve been pondering this scripture since I heard it Sunday morning. It’s been constantly replaying in the back of my mind for the past few days. So since I’m an external processor and you, people of the Internet, are my captive audience, I’m gonna try to hash it out.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”

The word is near you. What is “the word”? My reaction is to say Jesus, Who was the “Word made flesh” {JN 1:14}. “The Word” thus is not what we think of when we hear “words,” the usual sounds, promises, noise. No the Word is the presence of an actual being. Think of when you are going through a tough time; what comforts you the most? Is it words that everything is gonna be okay or the presence of somebody to help bear the load, emotionally or physically?  And I think this part really blows my mind is that we are never alone! We may feel like it at times, but as Paul points out the Word, Jesus, is forever near. Standing beside us ready to help us in our struggles. He is there, right beside you, ready to carry you through whatever trials you face. The only thing we need to do is let Him. That’s the catch-22 of the free will God gifted us with. He is there waiting to help us, but we have to acknowledge our own brokenness and accept His help.

     “He is in your mouth and in your heart.”

This is the truly beautiful part for me. The order of mouth then heart I feel is really important. Instead of thinking that Jesus is guiding my words, I imagine the Eucharist. The Eucharist, the physical body of Christ, the physical point of where heaven meets earth, and we consume it. We are literally allowing Christ into our very being. By saying ‘Amen’ and receiving the host we are saying, “Yes Lord, you may enter here.” Similar to how in Song of Songs when the bride is described as a “garden closed, a fountain sealed” {Song 4:12} she then chooses to let her lover into the garden that is herself. This is exactly what happens when we receive the Eucharist, it is the moment where we let the Lord, our bridegroom, into our walled and gated gardens. The spaces that we hide from the world and others because we feel the need to protect these spaces, afraid others may use these places against us. It is in this space we allow the Lord to physically enter. And after that He is truly able to reach our heart of hearts.

–Amelia