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School of Community

Encounter

The Ultimate Delusion

March 13, 2019

“Thus, the first point that gives the fundamental tone to our Christian personality is this: the living awareness that salvation, liberation—words that mean the same thing— are found in a reality that is already present in man’s life: Christ. The opposite of this first point is seeking salvation, that is the meaning of our actions and those of others, the meaning of time and of the world, by establishing it in something made by our own hands. This happens in our personal life, for example, when we cry over our dreams or when our plans do not work out. We delude ourselves because we have placed all our hope in human strength.”

Giussani, L. (1986). Morality: Memory and desire. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Every year for the past 8 years, lent has been a serious period of reflection for me. Without fail, there has been something that has caused me to question if I actually trust God, and the plan that he has laid out for me.

It always hits me like a ton of bricks- I am just living my life, doing my thing and casually thinking I trust God. I blindly follow Him into the desert, thinking “hey, I’ve got this. I am happy and trusting God and theres no issues here.” Then he gets me out there and I swear, every single year he just like *POOF* up and disappears.

And I look around, and theres nothing but sand as far as the eye can see (my worst nightmare) and I feel deeply alone.

As my carefully constructed universe comes crashing down around me, I come face to face with the truth that lies deep within me. As a Type A person, I always have a plan. And a back up plan. And a back up plan for that too, actually. Every hour of every day is carefully accounted for, work, school, prayer, community, volunteering, read a book, write for the blog, buy milk. The list goes on and on.

And when things don’t go according to my plan? I get more and more anxious. I start to shut down and then get nothing done which further spirals me into more anxiety because nothing is getting done. I put my trust in my ability to get shit done, on time and to the best of my abilities, at all times. I place all my hope in my human strength.

You can see how this a recipe for disaster in this season of reflection and purification we have embarked on… right?

Well friends, lent started a week ago. Just like most lents, it started in a packed church (well, gym this year, but I digress) with lots of people waiting to get their ashes. And I didn’t think much of it, except to commit to finding God in the center of my mess. I said this so cavalierly, like “oh hey, its no big deal. I’ll just find God in everything and that will make it a good Lent.”

Oops.

You can guess what came next… right?

School got hard. My group seems to be on the brink of destruction every time I turn around. Did I mention that we have our capstone due on March 27th? Nobody’s schedules line up. There’s additional meetings, and things need to get done. I need to print out how many copies of the 30+ page thesis? And put it in tabbed binders with a deck as well? Who am I, Rockefeller? Sheesh!

I am still trying to get my house ready for a baby to come home to. I am so blessed that I have so many people who love me, and want to gift me with the things I need to take care of my little girl. And right now, I am frantically cleaning and purging to make sure I have room for all of these things.

I have a class at the hospital with the doula program. I have a class at the hospital on breastfeeding. I have to get stuff together for a baptism and did you know you have to go to a class for that too?

And then there is just the whole being pregnant bit. No matter how many books I read, how many vegetables I eat, or how many kick counts I do, this whole thing is kind of out of my control. And that is one of the scariest things I have ever had to experience.

Ultimately, I can plan all I want, but it doesn’t matter. I have to trust that God gave me this tiny person for a reason, and that He will not lead me astray.

As I enter into the craziest weeks of my life thus far, I am certainly entering the proverbial desert.

But I am reminding myself that God would never lead me into a desert that He does not intend to lead me out of. And that even if I feel alone, He is always there.

Here’s to hoping that this lent leads me to a deeper understanding of the true meaning of trust.

Encounter

Come and See: Lent 2019

March 6, 2019

“Every year the Church proposes this time to us as an opportunity to look at our lives, at our days, and for each of us to ask ourselves, “Am I following Jesus inside the story in which He presented himself to me? From what signs do I see that I am following Him?” (https://english.clonline.org/cm-files/2019/02/28/carrón-soc-notes-2-20-2019-final-watermark-pdf.pdf)

And with that, Lent is upon us once more. I don’t even know where the time has gone. Maybe the time just evaporated. More likely, I wasn’t paying attention and now here we are.

I’ve noticed that Lent can become a bit of a contest amongst my catholic friends. Who can give up more? Who can add more? You aren’t fasting (News Flash- NO, I am not, actually. I am 7.5 months pregnant I don’t have to fast)?! All of these things so often leaving me feeling like I am less of a Christian for not having some big ole master plan to turn into a Desert Father and be hermit for 40 days while living on bugs and honey and wearing a shirt made out of hair.

So Lent rolls around this year and I have to ask myself- what am I missing? What is the greater point of this beautifully desolate season we are embarking on?

As I was reading through the notes for School of Community (SoC), this line struck me to my core (the link above will take you to the full notes if you’d like to read them as well!).

Am I following Jesus inside the story He presented Himself to me? From what signs do I see that I am following Him?

With these questions I began to wonder if how I saw Lent has been wrong all along anyways. It’s not about giving up chocolate or Facebook. Sure, these things are good sacrifices, and when our time spent aimlessly scrolling through social media becomes filled with moments of encountering the living Christ they become well worth it.

But if I give up social media, am I really spending the hour per day that my phone says I am on my social media apps in quiet prayer? If I give up food am I really turning that back on itself and thinking of God? Or am I sitting there pissed off that I can’t have the dark chocolate because I gave it up for Lent? Worse still, do I feel that God is going to kick me to the curb if I do eat the chocolate or check my Instagram account?

Since the New Year I have been trying to establish healthy habits before my daughter gets here. Making sure the kitchen is clean before I go to bed. Doing the laundry before the pile becomes a tripping hazard. Brushing my teeth for two full minutes, morning and evening. Journalling the things I am grateful for every evening. Eating three square meals a day.

And yet, not one of these things has been a thing to increase my time spent with God. They are things that bring me peace, and ultimately allow me to be a better person. But they don’t specifically scream THIS IS TIME SET ASIDE FOR GOD.

My husband and I were chatting about Lent and what we wanted to do to help us strengthen our spiritual habits before the baby gets here. And I tossed around a lot of ideas. Hell- I even said morning prayer this morning because I saw it sitting on my end table and thought- why not (and low key- I really enjoyed being back in the psalms, as I always do)?

But then I come back to this question: Am I following Jesus inside the story He has presented Himself to me? And I realize that this lent is so very important for me as a person.

Jesus is with me in the piles of boxes that show me just how loved my daughter is. Jesus is with me in the 4th load of laundry, ensuring I get my steps in for the day because I have to keep going up and down to get everything situated. Jesus is with me in the late night editing of my thesis. Jesus is in my instagram feed- where we celebrate each other, and add more beauty to a dark and scary world. Jesus is in each text message I send, making sure someone knows just how loved they are.

How easily I had forgotten that He is there. The point of this whole love story in which He has presented Himself to me is that He is always with me. He is with me in the mess, He is with me in the trenches. He has never abandoned me, and I have never had to do this alone. How easily I had forgotten that I am not a one woman show. I was not meant to take on the weight of the world, and all I had to do was remember that He was there to take on most of the burden for me.

So this Lent, I am recommitting to finding Jesus in every moment of my day. I am promising to remember that I am not alone, and that He wants to be there with me. I am not giving something up. I am not adding in more than I can handle. I am simply going to remember that He is here, and that my life needs to be a living, breathing testament to this fact. I am going to spend more time being grateful, and make sure that everything I do is a resounding “Come and See” about the guy that makes my life as beautiful as it is.

Encounter

Rising to the Occasion

August 1, 2018

“He became so much involved with man that He Himself became man. Through Jesus, God became “an affectively attractive presence,” to the point that it would challenge our hearts forever.” (Fraternity Exercises- First Lesson pg. 11)

I am honestly not sure when I have read a more true statement.

Each and every day, I find myself in awe of the world around me, and the goodness and beauty that reside in my life.

Friends who text me to tell me they love me. Friends who ask for prayer. A new style of workout that is fun and engaging. A burning desire to know more and become better.

These things do not happen as mere coincidence. Jesus challenges my heart in every moment of every day. In the times when I have no patience but need an ounce more. In the times when I am tired but I need to give just a few more moments to be a listening ear. How often has someone given me these precious gifts- moments of peace and security in an otherwise troublesome world. How often someone has been the face of Christ to me.

I want to be like Him. I want to sit with the people whom I love and listen to their stories. I want to be a part of their story. I want to share in their experience. I want to be able to build others up when they need the support. I want to love at no cost, and love when there is not enough to go around in this world.

I want to rise to the occasion of this challenge, and never stop trying to be the person that He is asking me to be.

Trusting.

Loving.

Caring.

Gentle.

His.

Encounter

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

May 24, 2018

“How many times have we spoken about it and have we experienced it in our lives: the distance of our heart from Christ becomes distance between each other, so that we often feel like strangers to each other.” (Father Julian Carron, Fraternity Excercises 2018)

Something about this really struck me tonight.

Time is flying by at a pace I really didn’t believe to be possible, and as I look at my calendar, I am faced with the reality that not only has my hardest 6 months in recent past nearly come to a close, I also have done so without keeping in touch with any of my friends.

I have been so overwhelmed by the tenacity of my class, and my work that I have forgotten the people in my life that I love. I have pretty much become a hermit, surviving on Netflix and copious amounts of coffee.

So often in the past few weeks I have had someone that I love dearly say: “How are you? I miss you. I feel like we haven’t talked in forever.  I hope you’re well.”

I can only respond with the usual pleasantries of how nice it is to hear from the, and how I promise that soon enough I will be done with the craziness, and will be able to get back to being a human being again.

But reading this, I realize that my community, and the friendships that help me to the the best person I can be, are actually as important as I think they are.

They are important enough not to put on the back burner.

It is in these friendships that I come to encounter Christ, and the more that I think that I can do it alone, the more I close myself off to the mercy and support that God wants to give to me through these beautiful people.

Now look- I can’t make any promises. My weekends are still cuckoo bananas. I still go to class two nights a week. But if you’re reading this, and you’re one of those people who has been wondering if I fell of the face of the earth- shoot me a text or a message of some sort.

I miss you. I miss my village, and I can’t wait to get back into seeing you all again. Because I know that as soon as I fall into the rhythms of fostering strong and beautiful friendships, I will start to see God in my life on a regular basis again.

Encounter

Reaching Out For Our Goal

April 26, 2018

“The existence of a person who believes must be bonded as one with the object of his faith, for man is only himself when is convinced, enlightened, and reaching out for his goal.” – ( Giussani, Why The Church pg. 197)

Last week we talked about the freedom that comes in being made to be one with Him;  a striking idea that I don’t often sit with.

This week, as I read this line in particular, I am captivated by the truth that my existence is utterly entwined with the full pursuit of reality.

I have a lot of opportunities to think and drive at this current phase of my life.

And I keep having this recurring scene play out in my mind each time I drive.

Right now, God has closed quite a few doors in my life. Honestly, it sometimes feels like I am never going to catch my break and that He is just going to keep slamming doors in my face.

But as I have started to think about who I am, and what I want, I am starting to gain a much clearer picture of what my end goals are, and how I can possibly get there.

In this scene, I am standing in a dark hallway and just as I am about to start jiggling the handle on the door in front of me, one on the opposite side of the hall creaks open just enough to let a sliver of light out and make me wonder what is behind that door.

Now, I have two options. I can keep trying to open the door in front of me (even though it is clearly locked and is not where I am supposed to be going) or I can head towards the one that is open and kick it down Dean Winchester going in for a vampire style.

Clearly the Dean Winchester option is far superior. But… am I gonna do that?

Honestly? I have no idea.

What I do know, is that I am suddenly faced with a re-evaluation of my hopes, dreams, and goals, and need to start really diving into what that looks like.

In this re-evaluation, I should be able to come to grips with the truth of my reality, and start to move towards my end goal again- making me free and fully alive.

Have you ever taken the time to answer the questions “Who am I?” And “What do I want?” [This is a post for another time, but now that I have thought of it, I will try to figure out how to squeeze that one in!] If you haven’t, I highly recommend giving it a shot. It really helps to clarify things.

goals

Encounter

The Power of Creativity

April 18, 2018

“The more powerful a person’s creativity is, the more the person’s creation has, so to speak, personality. It exists, lasts, and affirms itself as time passes. This, in fact is the characteristic of a work of art, just as everything born of God’s genius and infinite power acquires an unmistakable identity of it’s own, for the simple reason that it participates in God.” (Giussani, Why the Church, pg 194)

Have you ever heard the phrase “made in His image and likeness”?

I have heard it countless times, in so many different capacities. You are worth it, you were made in His image and likeness. You should help this person, after all they are made in His image and likeness. Stand up for this cause. Vote for this politician. Don’t wear this. Don’t watch that. Only listen to praise and worship.

This idea that being made in His image and likeness limits me to looking and behaving in a cookie cutter way always bothered me. It seemed like the things that made me most myself were the things the church didn’t want me to be.

But what if being made in His image and likeness gave me an absolute freedom to continually seek His heart and become who I was meant to be, in a way that allows me to still be me?

This quote explains perfectly to me (a creative artistic, type), what being made in His image and likeness means. God the Father as the master creator made me. Not to be his carbon copy. But to bring glory to Him through being the best version  of me that I could possibly be. He created me to have my own personality, and to constantly be striving to find Him in my every day encounters.

As I read this quote, something stirs deep in my soul. I am His work of art. And He created me- all of my good qualities and all of my quirks. He loves me through my imperfections and wants me to constantly work towards being the best I can be.

So, what does that look like?

Jack’s Mannequin on my morning commute. Law & Order SVU when I can’t sleep at night. Bible Study with my friends. School of Community. Instagram stories. Morning hikes. Tom Clancy novels.

Maybe I am biased, but… that looks like a pretty normal twenty something woman  to me. God didn’t create me to be placed in a box. He created me to be fully alive and to constantly be striving towards Him.

YOU are an irreplaceable work of art. YOU are His incredible creation.

What does this journey look like to you? I want to know how you encounter God in your daily life.

 

Encounter

The Perilous Voyage

April 12, 2018

“To put the matter another way and use a metaphor much favored by antiquity, the man who has partaken of this mystery has already made harbour in the next world and is nevertheless on a perilous voyage; he carries upon his soul the seal that gives him clear passage upon his heavenward journey, yet during that journey his enemies, the evil spirits, still lie in wait for him…” (Hugo Rahner, taken from Why The Church pg. 191)

No matter how many times I read this book, this passage will always stand out to me.

In this section of reading for School of Community, Giussani spends a good amount of time discussing the sacraments in relation to man’s freedom. This is something I at one point struggled with. Confession and weekly communion seemed more like rules I had to follow than an encounter I could freely accept.

Once I had come to grips with my freedom in relation to the church, this passage really began to make a lot of sense to me.

If I was created for eternity, and my whole life is geared for moving towards that destiny, than everything I do should bring me one step closer that reality.

There is a sense of wonder and mystery that come with the sacraments. A person that you see during the week, sits in persona christi and can forgive your sins. A small piece of bread becomes the living God.

Each time I participate in these sacraments, I move one step closer to my end goal, one step closer to my final destiny.

The idea that always strikes me is the one that states that I basically have a ticket that I show the conductor that says my end goal is eternal life. I have a direct route, but along this route there will be so many moments when I want to get off the train.

This desire to get off the train is an every day battle. The world is big and offers so many good enough things that sometimes, I lose sight of what really matters.

But the sacraments that I freely participate in are the very things that give me the strength to try for just one more day.

I recently committed to going to confession once a month instead of twice a year. In fact, it’s actually probably time for me to call my priest and set that up since we are half way through April.

I also try to go to daily mass as frequently as possible, to continue to receive that extra grace.

What sacraments do you participate in on the regular? I’d love to hear your experiences with encountering Jesus in these awesome tools the church has given us.