A year after graduation

A year ago I was paining over finals for the last time. My future was so uncertain. But then all of a sudden, I had a job, graduated, and roadtripped home. Now it’s been just about a year since graduating college.

Work started 4 days later, and though it was a lot to adjust to, I’ve learned. Most of my prior job experience was summer internships, so it’s an odd and nice thing to be committed to a long term job. I moved closer to work in October. And since then life has just been plugging along.

I heard lots of people talk about how hard the transition into real adulthood can be. But honestly, I was already living in an apartment before graduating, paying for groceries, and taking care of myself. Being self sufficient isn’t hard for me.

What I have found extremely strange is how boring this season of life can be.

Since college was halfway across the country, friends and organizations didn’t come back with me. I loved living with four other people (and some honorary roommates who frequented our place). I was constantly busy doing something. At first it was going to ALL the things freshman year. Then I led the campus pro-life group for the next two years. Senior year I’d passed on the head role and participated by receiving requests for baby items I then delivered to families around town. I taught CCD and helped a mom out once a week, more than occasionally got up at 4:30am on Saturdays to be on the sidewalk outside the nearest abortion facility, and always had an assignment or project to work on. There was always something.

Now I go to work and come home.

For the first time in my life, I’ve had huge amounts of time where there’s absolutely nothing I’m expected to complete and no one to report to. It is weird and wonderful. Mostly weird.

I feel a certain sense of responsibility to spend my time well. But oh my goodness is that HARD. I can’t just walk across campus to adoration. I don’t know families near me I can go help. Places don’t respond when I ask about volunteering. Church doesn’t have much for young adults. Life isn’t what it used to be, and I have to rebuild with new people, places, and things.

Even though I’m somewhat of an introvert, it is incredibly tiresome to have so much time to myself. Who knows how long this season of life with so much stillness and quiet will last. While it does, I want to give my time away. It’s too boring keeping it to myself.

So what am I going to do about it?

My sister and I hosted a Blessed Brunch, and have had people over. I joined a gym recently and rediscovered my love of group exercise classes. Perhaps the Etsy store I’ve thought of for months will finally launch. The sky’s the limit. So one awkward get together at a time and attempt at building life all over again, it’ll happen. It takes a lot of patience and wow-I’ve-tried-that-and-will-never-do-it-again, but it’ll happen.

And just like other times in life, I’ll look back and smile, realizing life was happening, all of a sudden and all along.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people in this season of life? I’d love to hear from you!

To Life,

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Mother Teresa beyond the poor

What if I told you that there was so much more to be learned from Mother Teresa’s life than helping the poor? 

As a Catholic, there are thousands of people we recognize as possessing heroic virtue, so it might be hard to pick a favorite saint. But Mother Teresa, whom I affectionately call Mama T, is hands down one of my favorites. Let me tell you why.

At first I admired her for giving up everything to help the poor. Who wants to walk the streets helping people who kind of (really!) don’t like you (at first)? Probably most of us wouldn’t jump on that opportunity. 

It’s admirable and beautiful what Mama T did to help the poor, and I think most of us could make a greater effort to alleviate the suffering of those living in material poverty. That’s the easy to agree with message that so many people fell in love with Mama T for.

But there’s so much more to her. Here are some of the reasons (beyond helping the poor) Mama T is my homegirl:

She teaches us to trust God with absolutely reckless abandon. 

I use those words literally because to most people, how the Missionaries of Charity live is totally reckless. When I spent a spring break with them, I learned that they never ask for what they need or want. Instead, they’ll pray for God to provide. And guess what? He always does – even if it’s not how we imagined. The soup kitchen I helped them run for a week was overflowing with food to share. And they had never put donation bins in churches or asked for people to contribute. They got up around 4am, didn’t have furniture in their chapel, hand washed their sari’s, got through each day helping others tirelessly, traveled around their city to help all sorts of people, AND were able to stay awake for an hour of adoration. We can’t all do this, obviously. But it was a good example of what can happen when we lean on God. 

This story is another illustration of how Mama T trusted God (and shows us to!), which I try to remember. I’ve gone back to that story so many times. Her example is such a good reminder that God will never lead us to such deep waters that he can’t carry us across. 

She showed me that being Catholic doesn’t mean you have a perfect relationship with God.

It might be scandalizing to some people to know that Mama T felt unloved by God for the majority of her adult life. To me, it’s comforting. It’s proof that being a good person doesn’t come from special spiritual super powers. Yes, she had to have a lot of grace to do what she did. But just like her, I can choose to do what is good and contribute something beautiful to the world even if it stinks sometimes. People we admire have struggles and feel alone sometimes. How awesome to know what we’re all capable of.

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Never heard of her struggles? READ THIS BOOK.

She helped me understand that loving is about giving.

Much like the quotable Fulton Sheen, Mama T had some mic drop moments talking about giving. Reading her words have been part of my understanding of Theology of the Body – that life isn’t about getting and having. It’s about being and giving.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

During my mission trip, one of the sisters was experiencing severe pain in her foot. It apparently was getting worse as she was getting older. But we didn’t find out until well into the week, when it came up in conversation. Her response? “You don’t get old until you stop loving Jesus!” She just kept on giving.

She taught me that feeling unloved is a crisis unparalleled by material want.

To much of the Western world, being without a house and food sounds like one of the most horrible things that could happen to you. It is surely a sad thing. At some point, I thought how nice it would be to go to places like the slums of Calcutta and alleviate the suffering there. But having a bit more life behind me now (ha!), I get this. Material want can be fixed. And it should be, by people who have things. Want for love is so different. Whether it’s a broken relationship, a rough upbringing, or something else that’s cause for a feeling of alienation, there’s not as easy a fix. It’s complicated and messy and I hope that throughout my life I can help some people feel a little more cared for.

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

She showed me that you don’t have to go to Calcutta to change the world.

If you love Mama T, you probably thought about going to India for a hot second. Am I right? I did. Would it be awesome to see and experience her work? Of course. Yes. It would! I’ve found mission trips to be enriching and wonderful experiences. They’re great. But I think they also run the risk of us failing to see the people around us right here in our neighborhoods who need a helping hand. Mama T issues a challenge to us, which I hope to spend my life working on:

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.

Are we up for the challenge?

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“I Thirst” written beside every crucifix in their buildings serves as a reminder to spend our lives satiating God’s thirst for souls by bringing his love to the world.

You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty.

We’ve heard her words. We love her. Now let’s find our Calcuttas. Where is yours?

To Life,

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Standing on the cliff of uncertainty

It feels like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.

Being just over a week away from graduation is something that always seemed way in the future. But now it’s right here. I am an adult who will soon have a degree and job.

My future is still not quite crystal clear, which is something I didn’t expect. At first when job leads became unsure, I insisted on looking at specifically Catholic or pro-life jobs. When nothing was happening with those leads, I expanded to non-profits in general and applied there. It’s been frustrating not knowing what the future will be like.

I’ve been praying about it and was grilling God a couple weeks ago questioning whether I was supposed to even work with Catholic or pro-life organizations. Were my standards too high? If nothing’s happening with those leads, am I not supposed to work in those areas? Why in the world would I have spent the last 5 years working in those fields only to be rejected to continue full time? Was I being doomed to work in a meaningless cubicle away from the work I’m passionate about?

So naturally, I gave God an ultimatum of sorts and said “Okay, but if you want me in those other places, show me. Open the door and I will walk through it, even if I don’t love it.”

Daring God is not the most intelligent or mature thing I’ve done, but it also gave him just enough room in this adventure.

I continued my job search online widening my horizons. It was rather discouraging. Those business jobs unrelated to missions of helping people are the jobs that are often highly competitive and driven by profit and dirty business. That’s not what drives me, so it’s difficult to bring myself to apply to those jobs. But wouldn’t you know? I think God’s got something up his sleeve because other leads started developing. And my applications for jobs at non Catholic/life-related jobs were rejected.

So maybe that was the point – to get to the place where I gave up my plans and started looking at what I don’t want to do.

After all, one thing taking Catholic Social Thought has taught me is that it’s not the specifics of our work that make it meaningful. It’s our co-participation with God in his plan to develop creation. It’s our dignity as creatures made in his image that gives our work meaning.

Who knows where God is calling me? Not this girl. I’ve been surprised, disappointed, discouraged, but also hopeful at different times during this process. Figurative doors have been slammed in my face. It has not been fun. It’s not something I wanted to do. And it’s certainly not over. But more than anything, getting to this point in life has taught me that the best things often happen when my plans don’t work out.

Recently I was absentmindedly humming Here I  Am Lord, and this line stuck with me when I realized how applicable it is to senior year: “I will go, Lord, if you lead me.”

I will go, Lord, if you lead me

And for the first time in my life, I’m realizing that I actually mean that. God does not abandon us, EVER. Things like this that test us make us stronger. Bring on the fire! We can choose to lean into the change and let ourselves be molded, or we can crumble under the pressure. I choose to make the most of this. I choose to not be passive about finding what God has in store. I choose to find joy in this, even when it stinks. And I choose to allow God to unfold the masterpiece of my life.

Trust in God is one of the most horribly painful but awesome things ever. And it’s born from a place of realizing the gifts in life (basically everything) while developing an attitude of thanksgiving. It goes like authenticity to trust to gratitude.

That will never be easy to accept, but it has gotten easier. God’s got a plan and I’m out to find it. Are you?

To Life,

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