30 December 2016

One Little Word for 2017

I'm an extroverted, type A personality. I embrace being a loud laugher and love to talk.

For a period in my life, I was not good at.all. with silence, being still and quiet...with myself and even more so with God.

As I look ahead to the coming year, I always love to choose a word to keep grounded and focused; something to challenge me in the coming year.

Last year my word was cultivate. The year before that my word was serenity.

My word for 2017 is stillness.

Over the last few weeks several things in reading and prayer have come up that are showing me I need to cultivate more stillness in my life.

I find myself continuing to come back to these two passages in Scripture:
  • Be still and know that I am God.  -Psalm 46:10
  • The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.  -Exodus 14:14
In the last six months I have begun to carve out time day to start and end my day with silence and meditation. Deep breathing helps me focus and let go of the distractions running around in my brain. Slowly repeating a word or prayer helps me re-focus when my mind starts to chatter again.

Living on my own for the first time in my life, getting used to more silence is something new for me. But more and more, I am seeing how much I need it. How much my soul actually aches and craves it.

It is one thing to be still physically but a completely different thing to still your mind and spirit. And while I am growing in this area, I see how much more stillness I need in my life; relationship with myself, God, and others.

Life, relationships, and my mind can very quickly become noisy and fragmented. I am looking forward to more stillness in my life...more just being, instead of always doing.

Do you have a word to guide and inspire you for 2017? What does it mean to you?

Whatever your dreams, hopes, or goals are for 2017, remember that you can do hard things.

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28 December 2016

12 in 2016

I really love celebrating the New Year and looking back on the past year I lived. I know some people struggle with the whole resolution thing, but I thrive on it. 

I spend the last week of December looking over the past year and dreaming big for the upcoming one. I also love looking back at all the pictures I took over the past year, it reminds me what mattered to me.

My friend Bobbi is hosting a photo link-up in review of 2016, so here is the year in review in photo's!

In January I was a guest on this podcast! It was my first time ever doing that but it was super fun!

So at this point we are well into the Year of Mercy.
I spent a lot of time thinking and praying on entering a season of mercy in my own life.

My friend shared this article with me that has really messed me up in a good way, it was a reality check for me in how to do ministry well....what ministry is all about.

I also went to the South for the first time in my life! I went to Atlanta for a weekend to help run a retreat with a girlfriend. I have since decided I need to do a road trip through the South and that the Midwest needs to get Chick-fil-A.

April 3 I ran my second half marathon. It snowed the day before and was much colder than I anticipated, but super glad I did it. The crazy things people will do for free pizza and beer.

In April, my divorce was also finalized. I continue to be so grateful for all the crazy, wonderful ways God is leading me through this new phase in life.

In May one of the couples from the young adult group at church had their second baby baptized. Afterwards, there was a party a bunch of us young-ish adults went to. There was lots of laughter, good food, beautiful weather, and a growing sense in my spirit I can do this...I can be on my own:)

In June our parish staff went to an AMAZING conference (Divine Renovation) in Halifax Nova Scotia. 
The conference was hosted by the the pastor, Fr. James Mallon of St. Benedict. He wrote a book called Divine Renovation explaining how he radically changed his parish from maintenance to mission mindset.
It was exhausting, uplifting, and amazing all rolled into one! Minus crazzzyyyy flight delays on Air Canada of which I am still scarred by.

July busy with our annual youth conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Or as I call it "Catholic Disney World."

And at the very end of July, I led a group of 12 pilgrims to World Youth Day in Poland.

We came home safe and sound from Poland. This was my 4th WYD. It was also the most difficult and spiritually life-changing one I ever experienced. While we were there, I got very sick and almost died. 

In September I turned 31. I had celebrated with sweet friends and my family took me out for a fancy dinner and drinks at a brewery.

I also got to attend a retreat with all of the beautiful women I work with in the women's ministry Blessed Is She. It.was.amazing. I always wanted a big sister, I just never knew I had so many.

In October I ran my 3rd half marathon. Running has become such an important part of my life, and a big part of my own healing.
After this race, I decided next year I will run my first marathon! 

In November I got to participate in our Archdiocesan synod, which our local church has been preparing for for three years! 
It was also really special because my Dad and my sister also participated in various ways. It was exhausting but so exciting to see the power of the Spirit radically re-shaping our archdiocese!

I also got my second tattoo


I don't have a picture for December, but I do have a VIDEO!!!! #spicingthingsup

Our youth ministry made a Christmas video for Pope Francis. I about died laughing and we had a ton of fun!

Be sure to head over to Bobbi's for the link-up!!!

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27 December 2016

Pope Francis' War on Christmas

The culture wars against Christmas rage onward.

People get upset over Starbucks cups or worked up over "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas." 

Children are being slaughtered in Aleppo or dying from diarrhea because of drinking contaminated water. Women and young children are sold into slavery and used as sex slaves at alarming rates. Almost half of the world-almost 3 billion people-live on less than $2.50 a day. Countries treat war like a well-planned chess game instead of the horror and devastation it is for those affected by it.

Sorry, but I really don't think God cares about the stupid cultural "War on Christmas."

The real war on Christmas is indifference. The real war on Christmas is coldness of heart.

A week before Christmas I stumbled onto some strong words from the Holy Father on the charade of Christmas this year. I still find myself going back to them; wrestling and reflecting on what it means.

"It's all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war." Francis continued, "A war can be justified, so to speak, with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war, piecemeal though that war may be-a little here, a little there-there is no justification."

"The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate," said Pope Francis. " We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it."

"God weeps; Jesus weeps."

There is no reading between the lines here, the message is clear. 
Christmas that ignores suffering is not really Christmas. 

For Francis, Christmas is less about glad tidings of comfort and joy, and more about encountering and walking with those who are greatly afflicted by pain and suffering. 
It is about accompanying people through whatever mess they are facing.

I think especially in the western world, it can be so easy to domesticate and sanitize Christmas. Sometimes I miss when I am doing it; it can happen so easily.

Christmas isn't pretty, shiny, and wrapped up perfectly with a big red bow. 
Christmas is about brokenness, messiness. No one expected the Messiah to be born into poverty, obscurity, and exclusion, far away from power and wealth.

At Christmas, Jesus comes all the way down into messiness of human dysfunction-the violence, the sinfulness, the hatred, the racism, and the wars. This holiday, this holy day calls us out of comfort into discomfort.
And facing each of those head-on can be uncomfortable.

The world today is blinded by all kinds of hate. Blinded by finding our security in nuclear weapons and war games. Blinded by our indifference, coldness of heart, and legalism.

I know I do not understand fully what it means to be a peacemaker as Jesus spoke about during his earthly ministry. I know I do not fully understand the pain or suffering of refugees, the imprisoned, black lives, migrant lives, and LGBT lives. 

The 12 days of Christmas are upon us. It is a time of celebrating and joy. But we (I) have to make room for weeping. 

Weeping with Jesus for what we have turned his world into. 

Weeping for my own indifference, whatever it looks like.

Weeping for my cold heart.

Weeping for the sins of our world.

Yes the whole world is at war. Our future President is perhaps calling for a nuclear arms race
But the state of the world reflects the state of our own hearts in a lot of different ways.

I need to be honest with myself, with Jesus about the state of my own heart.
When I am more loving and less indifferent, I think I become a little more of the person God wants me to become.

Let's stop getting worked up about coffee cups and the cashier at Kroger wishing you "Happy Holidays."

Let's look at our hearts and see where the have grown cold or indifferent.

Because that is the real war on Christmas.

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21 December 2016

More Than a Cute, Squishy Baby

Sometimes you just read things that leave you stumped.

My friend Shannon recently wrote a really good blog post on Advent and what we're really waiting on. Stop now. Go read it.

Okay, good? Proceed onward.

What really hit me like a brick was when Shannon talked about how how easy it is to love Baby Jesus. It is ridiculously easy to love Baby Jesus. 

In her post, she quotes another great article by Fr. Richard Rohr. This guy is a spiritual genius and one of my favorite writers on life and Christian spirituality.

I was making a joke yesterday at church with a friend that sometimes I wish the six weeks of Lent could be swapped out for the four weeks of Advent. Why?
Well because I do the joy thing way better than fasting and repentance. Seriously it is easy to get excited about a baby who happens to be God then getting geeked up for no meat, fasting, and strengthening my will. 

Who gets excited about that?! #nothisgirl

Aside from the joking, I think deep down there is a lot there.

Why is it so easy to love the sweet, cuddly Baby Jesus?

Well like Shannon said because a sweet little baby doesn't threaten or challenge us. We look at love itself in the manger. We let Jesus love us and we simply love Him back. Yes that is a part of our story. Yes we need to do that.

But Jesus, the holy feast of Christmas is about more than a cute, squishy baby.

At Youth Group on Sunday we talked about the Incarnation (God becoming human like us in all things except sin). This truth is perhaps the most bold claim Christianity makes, no other world religion believes God became a human like us.

I told the teens that the message of Christmas is Jesus couldn't imagine a world or eternity without each of us. He became a human so that way He could show His love for us. He became human to unite himself to the human experience complete with all its joys, sorrows, hopes, and pain. 

And right now that is what I love most about Christmas. 

That my God knows me because he knew and lived the human experience. 

He wasn't far away in a palace like a warrior king the Jews had predicted the Messiah to be. Jesus knew rejection, sadness, anger, loneliness. He knew laughter, joy, confusion, and doubt. He had to learn how to properly use silverware or how to make friends. Maybe he had an awkward crush on a girl as a teenager. Maybe he was the fastest runner in races with schoolmates. 
He experienced everything, except sin.

And to a hurting, broken world this promise still makes all the difference.

The prophet Isaiah says his name shall be Emmanuel, which means "God with us."
This is Christmas.
God with us. 
Past, present, future, always.

On Christmas Eve I will go to midnight Mass with family. I will come home and put the newborn Prince of Peace on his bed of hay in my little creche. I will sing the carols and feel the warm fuzzies that always come with a sweet new-born baby.

But the promise of "God with us" outlasts the life of a Christmas tree or those warm fuzzies.

It is something we can hold onto and remember every other day of the year. 

And that is really, really good news.

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16 December 2016

Ignatius, Francis, and why I am just now turning on my heat (SQT)

Friday Quick Takes

I just turned the heat on in my apartment. Yesterday.
I decided after the fact I went to bed with a hat, two pairs of socks, and my cozy fleece sheets, it was time to turn the heat on for the winter.
Made it through half way December, not too bad! 
I said to a friend the other day someday when I do my debt-free scream on Dave Ramsey's show and he ask about what crazy things I did to pay off debt, I will be sure to tell him this ;-)

I have a lock-in tonight with our youth leadership team. Not looking forward to the lack of sleep, but grateful the goal of tomorrow is coming home and sleeping. A lot.

For the last three or four weeks, I have started attending church more and more at a small inner city parish in Detroit. The community is just beautiful, the preaching is amazing, and there is such a diverse group of people.

I know-ish the pastor from when I was in grad school. There is something kind of special when your pastor says your name as he hands you the body of Jesus at communion.

Over the years here in Detroit, many city parishes and schools have clustered and closed and it has been painful and difficult. And I've been thinking if more people from the suburbs partner with and support these communities perhaps some of this can be avoided.

This Sunday after Mass, there is a Christmas Bazaar and I am looking forward to going and meeting new people. Little by little, I am getting better at doing things on my on with a confident and adventurous spirit.

I work at a bi-lingual parish, 35-40% is Hispanic. So of course the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a big deal around our parts.
Last Friday, at our diocesan cathedral they had a special Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was so beautiful! I loved seeing the unique traditions, songs, and dances of our Mexican brothers and sisters.

At the close of Mass, our Archbishop made a statement on the vital support he and our local church have for migrants, refugees, and the un-documented. It was beautiful and here is a snippet of it:

Is anybody that just loves to read at night by the light of your Advent wreath? I always do that around my Christmas tree too, but the last few nights I find myself reading or praying by the light of my Advent wreath.
So peaceful and so lovely. Try it:)

Assisi was the first place in Europe I ever traveled too. In college, I wrote an essay and won a paid pilgrimage to go there. And while I have traveled a fair amount over the last 10 years, Assisi will always hold a special and meaningful place in my heart.
So when I saw a video study on the life of St. Francis of Assisi was being made (and filmed on location), I got super stoked....

I have a close friend whose is a priest, and recently we were talking and I asked him if over Lent he would lead me through the Ignatian spiritual exercises with me over the course of 5 days. I love St. Ignatius and all things Ignatian and have never done the exercises. 
Of course, he told me he would take my phone and computer....because you know, silence and all ;)

Obviously there's time to think about it and its a big commitment for both of us, but I have never done the exercises and love the idea of doing it over Lent this year.
We shall see...

May your weekend be merry and bright!

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15 December 2016

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2016

So far this year I have read 81 books. Last year the final number was somewhere in the mid-sixties. 

For the last two years I have started writing down the titles of books I finish-partial reads don't make the cut.

While I still have a few weeks left to 2016, I don't think I will make my goal of reading 100 books. 

Of the books I have read, I've chosen my top 10 favorites that have been most challenging, eye-opening, and powerful books over the last year.

So here the books with a short explanation of why I loved the book!

First Women by Kate Anderson Brower
Why I loved it: I love history and especially the stories behind very public people. This is a compilation on all the different women who have been the First Lady. What makes them tick, how to raise a family in the public eye, and learning about their own personal struggles was fascinating. It is full of lots of behind-the-scenes stories and insights into their lives, marriages, and their husbands.  

Overrated by Eugene Cho
Why I loved it: This was a recent read, and one that really surprised me. The premise is too easily we talk about justice but saying that are we even living justly? What does that look like for us Americans today? A local Seattle pastor and founder of One Day's Wage, Cho wrestles with honest, difficult questions every Christian should seriously pray with and reflect on.

He explains the biblical understanding of justice and the struggles we Americans can face in trying to live a just way when so many people have so little.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
Why I loved it: The entire message can be summed up in this: God loves to take our brokenness and turn into abundance for His Kingdom.

Read it. Give it away to others. And if you don't follow Ann's writing do that like yesterday.

Thomas Merton: Essential Writings by Thomas Merton

Why I loved it: If you have never read anything by Merton, this is a great place to start!
 Merton (I would say) is on the most prolific writers on spirituality, peace and justice, silence and contemplation, and ecumenical dialogue of our modern times. 

This gives small pieces of some his most well-known spiritual writings. Lots of depth and many things to ponder.

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne 

Why I loved it: A young man who starts to ask deep questions of what does it really mean to live as a Christian. For Shane, a true disciple is committed to works of peace, justice, and action. Being a disciple means "incarnational living." 

Shane is an amazing story-teller and faces head-on the hard stuff too. His journey takes him to work with a leper colony in India with the Missionaries of Charity all the way to Iraq in peaceful protest of the Iraqi war.

Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You by Banning Liebscher 

Why I loved it: This came book came very highly recommended from a friend right around the New Year when I filed for divorce.

God wants to develop us, to strengthen our roots before we are sent out. Expanding our root systems in the hidden places of our hearts is what makes us stronger. This resonated with me on so many levels, and was exactly what I needed to be reading at this time in my life.

Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin

Why I loved it: Because it is an eye-opening, pastoral read into a conversation (very often) Christians do not have well or just ignore. Wherever your stance is to gay marriage, I'd highly recommend this book.

You agree with it and you may not. But I firmly believe there is such value in reading and talking with people whom you may not always agree with.

Marin openly discusses and looks at what does it mean for Christians to have healthy conversations on spirituality and sexuality, and also what does it look like to really build bridges with the LGBT community. Very insightful.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

Why I loved it: Well first of all because I LOVE a good book on time management.

But this was different than any other one I have read. The author shows real-life data and study how time-tracking actually shows you exactly where all your time goes. 

I have used her research in re-making my morning routine and it has taught me a lot!

Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny by Christine Caine

Why I loved it: Her message in this book has become my battle cry. Shame is perhaps the most negatively, destructive force in knowing our identity as beloved in the eyes of God.

Caine faces head on the roots and reasons for shame, as well as drawing upon Scripture to bring her message to life. I found myself writing and dog-earing pages of my library copy.

I think her message is especially relevant for women today, because I think this one of the greatest lies women specifically face in the modern world. But the good news is the shame stories we tell ourselves don't have to stay on repeat.

It spoke a lot of truth and personal healing into my own life. Read it. You won't be sorry.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful, Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Why I loved it: This is the raw, honest story of a sinner and saint. Heavily tattooed and at times foul mouthed this Lutheran pastor has fascinating experiences and thoughts on culture, life, church, and spirituality. 

I got to hear her speak in the fall at a local Episcopalian church and her speaking is as profound as her words.

Insightful and very thought-provoking read!

So those are my favorites! What would be your 10 best books of 2016?!

As you make your own lists of books to read in 2017, here are my favorite books from 2015 too.

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14 December 2016

Did Jesus Really Mean That?

There are many times in my life I have looked at certain words and teachings of Jesus and wondered, "Okay, did He really mean that? Is this to be taken literally or is this just a nice suggestion from God right now?"

I have found in my life it has been easy to downplay particular teachings of Jesus over other ones. I can be really good at picking and choosing the ones I "like" or "agree" with. I can be really good at making things black or white.

And if I don't "like" whatever it is, I just skim over that part of the Bible and move on my merry way.

But recently I had something happen that really gave me a reality check on the many difficult sayings of Jesus in the Bible.

My Dad works in downtown Detroit. On Friday's at lunchtime he and various coworkers go around the area of their building handing out food, water, and clothes to homeless people on the streets. 

One Friday in November I had an open morning and was able to join the group that goes out. Knowing winter was coming, I wanted to go through my clothes and coats to see what I could bring to contribute to their ministry.

I had this beautiful, navy coat. You know the kind. It has pretty buttons, detachable hood, is very warm, and of course a fancy shmancy brand name. I received it as a Christmas gift from my parents two years ago.

However, since I have begun running and training regularly I have lost about 10-15 pounds and the coat didn't fit me properly. So in my closet it hung. With 6 other coats.

I knew this navy coat was something that was better spent on a woman who really needed it on the coming cold Detroit nights. So I set it aside with some other fleece jackets and shirts.

However, the Friday I was going to help I started second guessing myself. 
"Well it was a gift from my parents...It is a really nice coat..." I started trying to convince myself I NEEDED this coat. That I had to have this coat or my life would be less meaningful without it. #pathetic

I ended up parting with the coat and I was glad I did.

But as I came home that afternoon and re-played the earlier internal dialogue I suddenly recalled a time in Scripture where John the Baptist calls some people out: "Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise" (Luke 3:11).

Okayyyyy it was Jesus' cousin and not actually Jesus who said that. But stick with me here.

My inability to part with a simple coat is such a powerful illustration of how tied I am to materialism; the power my stuff has over me. I like being comfortable in my faith sometimes. 
I like my interpretation of the Bible best...the easy, peasy kind.

You know the kind that doesn't challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable.
But Jesus didn't come to make us feel comfortable.
He came to shake.us.up.

The more I thought about this coat, I began recalling all those difficult sayings of Jesus that I have tried to rationalize away or deflect any personal responsibility they have in my own life.

Forgiveness is never not an option. Not seven times but seventy times seven. 
Adultery is not just committed with your body but in your mind, intentions, and thoughts.
Judge others harshly and you shall be judged on that same account you treated them.
Do not forget the poor, orphans, and widows. #refugees #Aleppo
Sell what you have, give to the poor, and your reward will be great in Heaven.
Do not store up treasures on Earth...because you cannot take it with you where you're going.

Did Jesus really mean that? Yes, I think He did. 
I think the tough stuff He said to us we are meant to take and live seriously.

Sure we can argue back and forth on literal vs. figurative language in the Bible. But what I am starting to see more, is if Jesus said it then He really meant it. Now the way it is lived out in our lives will look different. 
But if God said it, then we need to care and do something about it.

Faith without works is dead, it is meaningless. 

James challenges believers when he writes: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body what is it?"

What we believe as Christians makes a difference in the world to the extent those beliefs are translated into love in action. And sometimes in life I have really sucked at the love in action piece.

What the navy pea coat reminded me is how attached I still am (unknowingly at times) to the stuff and comfort of this world. 

But deep down, I know I wasn't created for comfort. Rather, you and I all were created for greatness.

And we cannot become great disciples, great saints if we are shackled to comfort and mediocrity. 

Slowly, I am learning that.
And this nice navy coat is just one more reminder how much I still have to learn...

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08 December 2016

5 Great Podcasts (and their great episodes)

I love to read. But a close follow-up is listening to podcasts.

And that's why I love podcasts so much, because they are kinda like books. There are shows on everything, any possible genre you could imagine. 

Here are five great podcasts I think you'd really enjoy, with a particular recommendation for a certain episode.

1. The New Activist
The New Activist is a new-ish podcast created through IJM (International Justice Mission). 

This is an organization I am really loving learning about and ways I can support their mission of ending modern slavery in our lifetime. They have a heart for justice, the poor, and are doing some powerful work around the globe. 
This has quickly become one of my favorite news shows to follow.

Try this episode: Lu Cille Dejito (warning it is very heavy and could be triggering-topic on cyber sex trafficking of children) VERY powerful and sobering.

2. The Fountains of Carrots
I just love Haley and Christy! Every time  I see a new episode load, I get so excited because it feels like I am sitting down with real-life friends. 

Two lovely women chatting on all kinds of things like faith, books, living the liturgical year, culture, and more. Plus these two always have GREAT book recommendations! Because of them, my life has changed immensely through reading Anne of Green Gables. 

Try this episode: Why We Need Silence & Thomas Merton
This.episode. I read a little of Merton in grad school and my favorite professor loved his writings. This episode has given me great places to start to read Merton (whom I'm now love!) and gave great insight into the life and person of Thomas Merton.

3. The Liturgists
This podcast I just stumbled onto in August as I was moving into my apartment.

A show where the hosts talk on a variety of topics through the lenses of faith, creativity, and science. Their description reads, "Making room at the table for the spiritually homeless and frustrated," is a great summary of what you'll get with their take on hard topics. I love this one because they challenge me to think and stretch myself, especially when it comes to things we may have differing views on.

Try this episode: Black and White: Racism in America
Think you know it all? Well you probably don't. Great conversation + they give a ton of book recommendations to learn more.

4. Upside Down Podcast
This is new gem is in my weekly play list, but wow is it mighty and fierce! 

Five women having an unscripted conversation on life and faith. One of my friends Shannon is one of the co-hosts too! Just honest, genuine conversation...

Try this episode: Loneliness in the Kingdom of God

5. On Being
On Being explores a variety of questions from a variety of perspectives. What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? The show has conversations on any and everything. It does a great job of creating open dialogue to break down barriers of class, race, religion, political, and socioeconomic.

Try this episode: Fr. James Martin SJ on Finding God in All Things
Fr. Jim Martin is one of my most favorite writers and speakers. A Jesuit priest, here he talks on his journey of faith and how Ignatian spirituality can be something for everyone in all stages of life. One of my favorite episodes of this show!

I listen to so many shows, and it always seems I am adding more ;)
I'll share more another time!

Do you have any particular favorite podcasts?!

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05 December 2016

Lessons from my Christmas Tree

I was a little anxious and nervous about decorating my apartment for Christmas this year.

Last year right before Thanksgiving I moved back to my parents. I didn't have to worry about decorating a home for the holidays since I was temporarily living in their basement. 

But this year is different. Its the first set of holidays in my new little home, by myself.

The weekend of Thanksgiving growing up was when we busted out the tree and played Andy Williams Christmas CD like it was never going out of style. It was always so magical, fun, and loud.

This year on the same weekend, I started unpacking the few Christmas decorations I saved. Shortly after, I just burst into tears (grief is a funny thing). Right away I was reminded that I would be decorating and baking and watching Christmas movies by myself this year. And that just royally sucked.

I let myself cry and be sad. I acknowledged the loneliness and that it feels crappy not having anyone to share this magical time of the year with. Eventually I got it together, made some tea and decided to give decorating a break and journal out the crazy making that started going on in my head.

Several days later I did put up a few things.

The Advent wreath is on the kitchen table. A small Christmas tree with clear twinkle lights sits on the table next to the couch. A small nativity scene is on the bookshelf and several Christmas-y scented candles are scattered around. 

One night I was sitting in the living room; candles lit and I was just enjoying the lights from the little tree sparkling.

I sat there admiring this humble little tree, and started thinking how symbolic it is of life right now for me. Its not big or grand and beautiful like every other Christmas tree I have had. I always wanted our tree to look perfect growing up. I was the nut job that had to have certain ornaments in the exact same position every year. Really who honestly remembers that stuff? Me.

My tree this year is not my dream tree, not the perfect tree I imagine in my mind like years past. It is small, simple, and humble. Life right now is not perfect. It is just different, a time of transition, learning, growing, and healing.

That's why I love Advent so much. 

Advent is a season of waiting and hope. It reminds me that the journey of life is full of seasons of waiting and doing, being still and living out of your mission. 

No season of life is permanent, is forever. 

But seasons of waiting prepare for the next chapter, the next season in our lives. Waiting is hard. But if we use it well, it can be such a an opportunity of growth and self-awareness.

I want to use my season of waiting well.

So I am learning to love this imperfect little tree, this time of life, and not wish it all away. Christmas will still be beautiful and magical this year even without someone to share it with. 

Because actually I am sharing it with someone. The one we are preparing our hearts for.

And spending this season of waiting with him right now is the best thing I can be doing.

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01 December 2016

St. Francis and Tattoos

Last April, I went to a reflection day for local area youth ministers.

Our speaker was Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR and creator of The Wild Goose. He is also working on a new series on St. Francis of Assisi too. 
I'm kinda stoked for it:)

At that reflection day, Fr. Dave talked a lot about discernment. 

How do we know we are doing God's will? 
More specifically i relation to youth ministry, are we even discipling the teens in our care? 
Or are we just creating "chameleon Catholics" that are just blending in with everyone else?

If everything were stripped in our ministry, and we were left with Jesus what would that look like? 
How would it change what I do? 
What would that mean?

His talk really really challenged me and left me thinking and praying on the why behind what we do.

After lunch, Fr. Dave was sharing ways in which we can work with and partner with the Holy Spirit.

And in one example he quoted a saying of St. Francis: "Oh God, You are enough for me."
I'm trusting Fr. Dave on his source check since he himself is a Franciscan. 
Not to mention it is now permanently on my body ;)

Those words rocked me to my core. For a lot of reasons.

Maybe because it was a week after the divorce was finalized. 
Maybe because I have never really believed that for myself. 
Maybe because for most of my life I thought I would be enough when I had someone to share my life with.

Whatever the reasons, I spent several months just sitting with those words in silence; praying with and wrestling them in my life.

In the silence, they began to take on a deeper meaning for my life.

So when I decided to get another tattoo, I knew I wanted these words of St. Francis.

This new phase of my life has really become defined by those words.

God really has to be enough for me. If I don't learn this now, I don't think I ever will.
I am enough just the way I am. 
I am enough on my own.

I know I never believed I was enough, so how the heck could I possibly believe God is enough for me?

And you know what? That's a really crappy way to live.

But the next amount of years are going to be focused on living more in these new truths for myself and helping others know that too.

I have always been enough, now I just actually believe it.
And the freedom in knowing that to the core of my soul is the best thing.

Are there truths in your own life you have wrestled or struggled with?
How have you come to believe them to be true?

PS If you have a tattoo, what's the story behind it?! I love me a good tattoo story:)

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