Sunday, October 31, 2010

High Dive

I stand on my tip-toes at the edge of the board, staring down at the water below. I can't see what's under the surface and have no way of knowing what's ahead of me or how this is going to go. I can only have faith and throw myself forward with joy and the tiniest bit of wild abandon. ;) (Just a little. I promise.)

Enough with the metaphor. If we want to get technical, I'm reaching the last milestone of my youth tonight. I'll be 21 in a few hours ... welcome to the rest of life, etc.

I could let it become dry and boring and ordinary like that, living with regrets, in sadness or in fear of the future. But I won't. I can't. I'm made of different stuff than that.

The future is bright. Now all I have to do is take the leap and see where He'll lead me.

All I can say is that I am humbled by everything that's happened this far, and the number of unbelievable and amazing people that support me. I think of the person I was this time last year, and I can say without hesitation that I've grown a great deal since then.

God is so good to me, and I know that this is only the beginning.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Freedom from the future

I've been meaning to write for well over a week now, and then midterms happened. Even now there is so much I should be doing -- for one thing it's going on three and I'm still dressed -- but I think if I let this go any longer I'll never find the time.

Retreat was interesting in a lot of ways. There was more structure than last year under our old chaplain, probably because our new priest spent many years running a retreat house in the U.K. Of course, the fact that this year had a central theme had a lot to do with that, too.

Pray instead of worry -- story of my life. Now and then I find myself thinking "let go and let God" ... even though my old confessor drove me crazy with that slogan and I never listened. He was right, though. And for the first time in my life, I can say that I think I'm finally learning to do that.

We spent a good deal of time going over some of my favorite passages in Scripture -- most of Matthew 6 particularly. And every now and then he would send us off for 20 minutes to journal and pray. As I did, I finally allowed myself to make an uncensored list of every fear and worry that plagued me. That first night, I filled the page and let the tears come over how controlling I have let them be. I was so frustrated with myself, disappointed, and scared. If I lost this much sleep at only 20, what would I be like in another 20 years?

Over the next 24 hours I wrote a lot more, during Father's talks, during those periods of reflection, and sometimes at night after everyone else had gone to sleep, always praying for peace. The real change came on my quiet hour.

Saturday afternoon I walked the grounds, watching the leaves blow (have you ever noticed that it looks as if a hand is scattering them? I have. God's little fingerprints, I like to think. :)) until I found my way to the little church that's always empty, letting me pray aloud. Every time I walk in there, I'm flooded with memories -- I lashed out at Him there once in October when I lost love, and again in March after I had lost my faith.

This time, I asked a stream of questions, most of them like my list, "What am I supposed to do about...?"

Until last weekend, May 13, 2011 was going to be the end of my world. I would be ripped from the safety of academia and shoved, helpless, into the real world where nothing was certain. No Newman, less independence living at home, less contact with friends. Providing a life for myself -- a job, somewhere to live, a support system, maybe a new church, (please God) someone to walk with me in marriage someday...What am I going to do? How am I going to do this? I can't do it by myself!

Just like that, it hit me, all that we had been learning, and I was stunned into silence. "Who among you by worrying can add a moment to his life?" "Have no anxiety about anything." "You see how God cares for the sparrows, so how much more will He care for you? You are much more precious than they."

God has gotten me this far. Every step of the way, He has come through, even though it's not instantaneous and sometimes rocky. And He's promised me only this moment, not tomorrow. I can't worry about the future anymore. When I do, I miss today. Hell, I might not even be here tomorrow. But I have the present.

Trusting in His providence 100% for the first time is so liberating. I was always so scared to do it, but I left my baggage at the altar in Elverson and walked away. I'm okay with that, because as long as I stick with Him, I'll get where I need to be. That's something we're promised, too, and He always keeps His promises. End of story.

ETA: This verse literally just appeared on my Facebook. A God hug, as Cat says...

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 
--Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, October 15, 2010

Heading for the hills!

Just a brief post tonight because it's after 2:30, I've gotten very little sleep this week, and still have a suitcase to pack.

My campus ministry is joining up with another college in the area for our usual semester retreat this weekend in Elverson. We leave this afternoon, and I'm thrilled to say that all of this week's homework is taken care of, so I'll have no worries while I'm there.

That's ironic, considering our theme will be "pray instead of worry." Where was this retreat last fall? Or last spring? Some things are constant in my life, and worry is unfortunately one of them...I'm looking forward to seeing what God will do. All I know is that when it comes to retreat weekends, He never disappoints.

That said, I leave with an open mind, open heart, and a very big bag of junk food. ;) I'll remember the particular intentions of those of you I know to pray for, and ask that you do the same for us.

See you Sunday!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Okay, so get this.

You'll remember that last week I wrote a post lamenting about how much pressure I'm under where music ministry is concerned. This weekend, in order to try and curt tail some of my stress, I decided to work ahead and prepare for several weeks' worth of Masses at once. This way, I'd already have the songs "under my fingers" if you will, which would make things a lot less tedious when it came time to use them this month.

At some point in the process, I turned to the next song and discovered a page worth of *mess* -- four sharps in the key signature, 6/8 for a time signature (fun, but hard to sight read), and no music given for the verses. After a solid two hours of learning music, seeing that made me snap. In typical girl fashion, I got all watery and went stomping off to the shower to deal with my blood pressure.

While there, I did some serious praying on a lot of bitterness that I've experienced lately, including my responsibilities to the paper and Newman, plus some unexpected hurt by a friend that has left me feeling more than a little bruised in the romance department. (Not you, Joe. Promise.) Essentially, what I said was "Lord, you know that I have all of this frustration and sadness on my shoulders, and I am really having a hard time dealing with it all at once like this. Please give me the strength to handle it, or handle it yourself?"

Today...I mentioned to our chaplain that I wouldn't be playing a certain Mass in a few weeks. He said that was fine, and then added as an afterthought: "Oh, by the way, you won't need to do the piano at St. Bridget's -- that's a large burden on you, and so they're going to bring someone in."

WHAT? Really??? To top it off, he also heard me singing today at the rehearsal, and added that taking me off the piano would add a very strong alto/tenor to the group. Singing, by the way, is why I joined music ministry in the first place.

And within five minutes of that encounter, I got a chance to reconcile with the gentleman who had hurt me. I knew last week that I hadn't been very good to him -- giving someone the cold shoulder and a "don't touch me" just because of my own hurts was not my proudest moment. But, because I actually humbled myself and apologized, things are a lot better now. In the process, I've found that the hurt I was hanging onto has eased a great deal.

Just like that, two big stressors in my life have been completely removed. God answers prayers, folks. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sex, Booze and ... Jesus?

This entry's title expresses the thoughts of the local media and student body as we advertised Theology on Tap this week. A South Jersey "chapter" of the young adult fellowship had its debut outing yesterday at the bar right down the street from campus.

Never would I have pictured myself at a bar with 80 other people ages 18 to 35 listening to a talk about chastity and rocking out to Kutless over drinks. But it happened, and it was awesome. =) (For the record, I didn't drink anything of my own, thank you very much. One more month!)

Our speaker for the evening was Dawn Eden, a rock journalist and Catholic convert who published The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On in 2007.

"God wants you to have great sex," she joked, earning a hearty applause from the crowd. She quickly followed that up with the clarification that great sex is the kind that is given to one person freely, fruitfully and for life in marriage. But it doesn't mean we have to shut ourselves down and become asexual as long as we're single.

It's funny how so many people believe the way to stay pure is by viewing anything sexual as perverted and evil. The problem with this way of thinking is twofold: first, it backfires in the sense that resisting it is like ignoring an elephant in the room; you will go crazy if you try to act like your sexuality is nonexistent. When Dawn told us this, there was a sense of shuffling feet and people shifting awkwardly in their chairs. One of my girl friends nudged me knowingly in the ribs. Clearly, Dawn knows how we suffer. ;)

The second problem is that if sex is evil, then so is your body, your emotions and your thoughts. Too often people end up resenting any sort of pleasure under that philosophy, and that's gnosticism, which is unhealthy on a lot of levels (not to mention heretical, haha).

So if abstinence is the wrong way to stay pure, what's the right way? Chastity is different because it doesn't ignore sexuality or try to force it away. Instead, it just shuffles our priorities to a place where emotional intimacy and communication are number one. You can be very intimate and very happy without ever touching the person you love -- and as someone who was in a long-distance relationship for three years, I can attest to that. :)

Is it difficult? Absolutely. Do you screw up sometimes? For sure. But there is something so freeing in not having to worry about providing for a man's (or woman's) "needs," being judged or compared or disrespected or used. When you commit to being chaste, you commit to loving a person for the way God created them, and not just for the what they can do, if you know what I mean.

On a college campus, chastity is a laughable concept. Just about everyone feels like their goal in life is to get physical as quick as possible, and for some, with as many people as possible. My college paper runs a weekly sex column that has actually stirred up fierce debate on campus. Some are calling him a pig, and many others are saying "Hey, that's just how guys are." It's a mess of confusion, degradation and hurt.

It might be unpleasant a lot of the time, and I might be waiting a lot longer than my peers because of my commitment to stay a virgin until marriage (I hear people like me are avoided because of that! Their loss.), but in the end, the lack of baggage is totally worth it.