Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Little Birdie

Perspective really does change everything.

This morning was miserable and rainy, the sort that makes it hard to resist pulling the covers up around your ears.

Beyonce's "Single Ladies" blasted obnoxiously from my radio. My stomach grumbled impatiently for breakfast. Bleary-eyed from not enough sleep, I sighed heavily and attacked the snooze button. Nine minutes of precious silence.

I rolled over onto my back, cocooning deeper into the blankets as I began a familiar chat with the ceiling.

"Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. I offer You all of my joys, my worries, my successes and failures..."

It's a morning ritual of mine. The nine minutes of that snooze period are meant for grace to shape me into something semi-capable of charity. It also steels me to face the chaos of the newsroom. I end this way:

"...and help me to see Your fingerprints and the mark of Your presence in my life today."

There are a lot of mornings when those are empty words, but I say them anyway, knowing that I need to. Knowing that it feeds my soul.

But today I just hated the rain and the noise and the day ahead. I would have much preferred shutting everything out and being a recluse.

In the last minute of my snooze time, I cursed the seconds passing way too quickly. Time to get this day over with, I thought.

And then, through the torrents of rain pounding against my window, I heard birdsong.

The little bugger was singing its heart out, bad weather be damned. He was going to be happy anyway.

I couldn't help but smile, then laugh. God's fingerprints are everywhere, all the time, if we're open to seeing them.

Today was a great day, all thanks to a bird.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

An Ambitious Lent?

For the first time in ages, Lent was a welcome sight on the calendar.

God in His mercy has done so much for me this year. High up on the list is that I have a clearer sense of my  vocation to marriage and motherhood than I ever have before.

In the past, it was always something I wanted, like a good job. But now I know that it's a true calling. God is asking me if I will serve Him this way when the time is right.

Truly realizing that has drawn both incredible joy and a lot of self-doubt from my soul.

I'm so many things: selfish, immature, insecure and bad at expressing what's on my heart. How in the world am I supposed to love a man with my whole life? And then, with that love, take part in creating new life? Nurturing souls? Guiding people to heaven?

The hugeness of that is enough to paralyze me at times. But it also starts a fire in my bones.

I may not be ready now, but the Spirit is crying out to me just like John the Baptist did. "Prepare the way of the Lord!"

Lent couldn't have come at a better time. I needed motivation to evaluate my life and start taking baby steps toward change.

This year, it feels less like sacrifice and more like stretching my aching muscles after years of laziness. It hurts like hell right now, but at the same time, it feels amazing.

I started with cutting out sweets (including coffee, sigh) and adding gentle exercise in an attempt to rein in the screaming toddler that my body can be. While I've taken huge strides in self-discipline over the past six months, there's still a depressingly long way to go.

Only a few days ago, I stole a second idea from a friend: praying and offering my daily sufferings for 40 people who have asked, one per day. I'm hoping it'll teach me to think a little less about my needs and more about those around me. I'm already starting to see beautiful things happen as a result of those prayers, if only subtly.

On Wednesday, when I took ashes on my forehead and marked myself with His Cross, it was the most natural thing in the world. My brokenness and need for Him is painfully easy to admit. There's no way I'm going to become the woman my future family -- whatever it looks like -- needs me to be without His grace.

The beauty of this season is that if we play our cards right, we get to rise out of this stronger, a little more capable, and a little more like Him.

I'm not going to run or bemoan the challenge this year. Instead, I want to milk it for all its worth.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Regime Change ... Again

Three years ago, my first true confessor left our parish for a new assignment. At the time, I wrote of my own anxieties about starting over with someone new.

I was getting ready to transfer colleges and live on my own for the first time. Everything around me was changing, and this was the last straw: the steady presence of my spiritual community was shaken.

Soon after Father left, I started talking with great reluctance to a "baby priest" who was given his first assignment here. The last thing I wanted to do was open my soul again for someone else to dig through unwelcome.

God, in His great mercy, knew what He was doing putting that one into my life.

The first few months were hard. At school, I struggled with homesickness and turned to both my vices and my faith to cope. By midterms, I left a long-term, long-distance relationship. My grandmother was fresh out of the hospital from another exacerbation of lung disease, and my love for her fostered a resentment toward God that flirted dangerously with atheism.

There were a lot of frantic emails and calls home to my new confessor that first year. But to his credit, he helped me through it. For the most part, it was just through listening and prayer, but that was what I needed most.

Now, three years later, it seems we've come full circle: I graduated college and moved on into the unknown of adulthood. I'm relearning how to love in this new relationship. The merger that began in my parish when my new confessor arrived three years ago is now complete, and he moved to his new assignment yesterday morning.

I'm moving on. So is he.

But you know what? This time, I was ready for it.

The other thing I learned from Father is to always strive first and foremost after God, for the sake of my own spiritual independence.

While there's still a lot going on in my soul that I need help working through, I'm probably in the healthiest place I've ever been. I'm learning to let God show me where to go. And that's why, as much as I'll miss him, I know I'll be OK.

God has always provided. He will again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love is Enough

I would be remiss if I didn't write some kind of silly love post for Valentine's Day.

To be honest, though, the holiday has never been more than another day on my calendar.

A lot of that comes from my preference for simple things. I'm not a flashy girl. Don't get me wrong -- I love presents, flowers are beautiful, and it goes without saying that chocolate should be a food group. Generally, though, flattery leaves me feeling both bashful and humbled. As someone who spends a lot of time trying to look tough, that isn't the most comfortable mix of feelings. ;)

Maybe I just need to get used to it ... the idea that sometimes, we really do deserve good things. That every now and then, we should spoil the people we love.

True love is accepting another person as they are, warts and all. It's not so much about what they say or do, but more about embracing something a lot deeper: the unique, unrepeatable soul that God has made and called not just good, but very good.

He calls us very good. And He loves us with more depth and strength than we could ever love any human being.

If that makes you feel uncomfortable, it probably should. But that's the beauty of true, God-driven love: it's given anyway, with no reservations, whether we deserve it or not.

There's really nothing any of us can say or do to repay that. David knew that well when he asked, "How can I make a return for all the Lord has done for me?"

All I can do is be thankful ... and do my best to love that much in return. That's really all He wanted in the first place.