God Broke My Heart

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  "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26

Throughout my whole life, I wanted the flesh heart that Ezekiel talked about.  I remember this verse and being intrigued by the idea of a real heart in terms of the interior life.  I knew that I had a physically real heart beating within my chest, but in terms of my spiritual life, the landscape of my heart looked more like a stone mountain range instead of a fertile planting ground for God to take root in.

So I took my desires to adoration and prayer and began to ask God to give me this real, fleshed out spiritual heart for His plan and will in my life - even though it would mean having to daily, if not hourly, combat the pride that stood in the way of the destruction of my cold, dead heart.

Yet instead of giving the hammer to God and asking Him to do exactly as He said He could, I pridefully took control of the hammer and began to chip away at my own heart.

Chipping away was probably an optimistic overstatement.  It was like I had a huge boulder to break down inside of my soul, but instead of pulling out a jackhammer and dedicating every waking moment that I had into smashing that stone encasement to smithereens, I was scratching at it with my fingernails in my spare time.

It wasn't working.  The stone was still there and but I was hurting, aching, longing for anything different.  Although it was cold and hard, the stone was at least familiar and comfortable.  Having a flesh heart would hurt - the vulnerability and lack of control of a tender heart scared me to death and I was content with my stone.

"Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them." - Fulton Sheen.

God had the incredible ability to, if he so desired, simply glance at my stone heart and do the shatter-and-replacement mission in a split second.  Yet He, out of complete love for me and the desiring of my good, chose to break my heart first so it would mend and bind to His heart in the healing process.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, the character of Eustace, an English school boy, is turned into a dragon because of his selfish desires and hardened heart to his role in the Narnia quest.  There is a beautiful scene that resonated with my own story within the pages of the book.  Eustace returns to camp, transformed back into a boy, and tells his cousins the story of his transformation.

I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sorts of things and snakes can cast of their skin.  Oh of course, thought I, that's what the lion means.  So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place....

Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - You will have to let me undress you.  I was afraid of His claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right through my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure feeling the stuff peel off.

Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only even so much thicker, and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been.  And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.  Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.  And then I saw why, I'd turned into a boy again.

When Eustace tried to scratch away his dragon scales himself, he readily admitted that it hadn't hurt.  It was only when he lay vulnerable to Aslan's claws, although they terrified him, that the transformation back into His real self was possible.

The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it is the only religion that makes sense out of suffering.  In light of the cross, the suffering that we have is transformed and redeemed into a beauty from ashes.  Because Christ's death is outside of the limits of time, each time trials or hardships are placed in our spiritual journey, we have the unique opportunity to unite those sufferings with those of Christ crucified.

My heart isn't all the way transformed into it's best-version-of-itself flesh state.  There are still many areas along it's surface that are rough with calloused, hardened stone that God is still ripping off and breaking off in front of my eyes.  And, like Eustace's transformation, I look at the pieces of my stone heart that lie in front of me, knowing that those are chunks of stone that would have taken me decades to smash myself.

God is good.  

I feel like I say that everyday, but it is the only phrase that my simple heart can utter in light of the incredible mercy and grace He has shown me.

The process still stings, but when I'm thrown into the waters of grace through confession, the pain is but moment and the joy is life-long.  And the tender heart that God is slowly transplanting into my chest is one of the most beautiful things that I have seen - tender and vulnerable, but protected by His hand and heart in ways I could have never imagined.

 

 

 

 

What an Orchid taught me about Christ

I don't have a green thumb.  In my life, I can count the times I have gotten flowers on one hand, and the times I have killed them on the same hand.  My rose from Dad on Valentines' day is always the first one to die in the vase - even though I swear I do nothing different to it than anyone else's.  Each year at the bank I work at, our boss gives us Poinsettias about a week before Christmas.  Mine is dead by Christmas Eve.  The plant that lived in a pottery vase that I was given for my graduation is now just a pottery vase that holds my pencils, because the plant has not been with us for over two years.  The little potted plant my best friend gave me is dead (sorry Mary) because I didn't think it needed water.  Don't ask me why.  I just don't have a green thumb.  And that's ok - to each his own, everyone has a set of talents and gifts.  Plant care is not one of mine.

So this little orchid that a fantastic guy gave me may have a short lived life in my house, by no means will it be intentional plant slaughter, it's just something bound to happen.  Yet during it's (possibly short) life here, it has already taught me quite a bit.

For starters, let's just take a moment to appreciate how little gardening work an orchid needs.  You feed it by ice cubes (the water, not the rapper) and sit in a a partly sunny place.  Check.  So this can't be too much - although I'm sure I'll forget it's water supply and pass by it one day as it is breathing its last.  But, on the optimistic side, it's little purple flowers are nice and bright and death has not cast it's shadow over the door of this little plant.

Here is the phenomenal, mind blowing part.  Look at this little plant.  Just look at it.  See how straight it is standing, reaching up for the sun? (It's normally in my room, but it came outside today for a photo shoot).  How neat is that? It knows that it grows best standing up, and so it stands.  Check this out, it gets cooler:

Not so straight, right? Despite all the ice cubes I have fed it and sunshine it has eaten up, this little orchid still likes to slump to the right.  
Let's use the orchid as an analogy for our faith.  (if you think it's a stretch, bear with me for a second). I grew up in a super Catholic house.  I'm the oldest of eight, I was homeschooled K-12, I knew about Theology of the Body since eight grade confirmation, and I've been schooled in apologetics at the lunch table since my freshman year of high school.  I graduated high school two years ago, went to a non-Catholic college, but got involved in my Catholic Campus Center and have made my best friends there.  I've grown in my faith through defending it through classes and interactions with other students, Catholic and non-Catholic.  All in all, if my life is that little orchid, I've gotten a really good amount of ice cubes and my sunshine tank is pretty full. 
But I still slump to the right quite a bit.  I don't have it all together (despite appearances) and sometimes my stress levels hit the roof.  I have a horrible temper (it's beast) and can be insanely judgmental.  Pride is something I consistently have to confess, and I always have fuel for spiritual direction.  I do not know anything but a teeny-tiny percentage of my faith life, and praise God for friends who are knowledgeable in the faith.   Now, take a look at this little baby alligator clip:
That is the only thing that is keeping the orchid from slumping to the right and growing horizontally instead of vertically.  It's not incredibly strong on it's own merit, but it's grip on the orchid keeps the orchid growing tall and sticking up for itself. 

                       

So despite all the good things that I can surround myself with, I still need a little baby alligator clip to keep me straight.  What is my little baby alligator clip? God's grace.  Something I don't have to deserve to receive, something that God is constantly just pouring down on me through the sacraments and grace and the time that I spend just looking at His amazing love in adoration.  Something that I see in the faces of those I interact with, and the love of the friends who reach out and sit me down when they know something is wrong.

An orchid growing horizontal is pretty cool - not something you see everyday.  But an orchid that knows its mission and purpose and loves reaching up to the God who made it? Now that my friends is a sight to see.  So, seriously, if you want to come see it, you better stop by quick. Because it may be reaching for the ground in a couple of days.   But until that day comes, I'm really enjoying the blessing of a good reminder of how it's ok to not have it all together, and the importance of a little baby alligator clip.

How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?

How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? 

Sharon Olds penned this poem in 1984...and the haunting verses carry great weight with each stanza.  In the writing, she tackles this question.  How do they do it?  The ones who make love without love?  Is that juxtaposition and irony possible? To move from the phrase 'I love you' to 'I love this'?

People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used. (unknown) 

 Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice.

Performances.  Sex to the elusive 'they,' those who 'make love without love' is a performance - like a dance recital or an ice-skating competition.  

Fingers hooked inside each other's bodies, faces red as steak, wine, 

Here the imagery Olds uses takes a more graphic or violent turn.  'Hooked,' and even her similes are comparisons to raw meat...rawness.  A sense of vulnerability that is still present despite the desire to separate oneself from the bonding that inevitably happens on a spiritual, emotional, physical level in the very act of sex.

Wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away. 
The beauty integrated into the very act of sex - and one of it's purposes? Procreation.  Fruitfulness. 


"The Church, which is on the side of life, teaches that it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.  This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act." (CCC 2366)
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Yet these lovers have separated the openness to life away from their love making...if it can be referred to as such anymore.  They're giving that opportunity and openness to life away.

How do they come to the come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them - light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin?  These are the true religious, the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah,

Are they really?  Are they better off?  Who is this false Messiah that they are rejecting? The notion that sex means something? Anything?


love the priest instead of the God.  They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure,


To bypass the creator in an attempt to connect on a deeper level with the creation? Yet in the very act of the reduction of another human being, created in the image and likeness of God, down to simply what one can do for another...instead of willing the other's good

"The fact that theology also considers the body should not astonish or surprise anyone who is aware of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation. Theology is that science whose subject is divinity. Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door. The Incarnation and the redemption that springs from it became also the definitive source of the sacramentality of marriage…” (TOB April 2, 1980)

they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind,

the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio- vascular health--just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time.

Here is the ultimate price tag - that comes with the use of another person, separate from the self-giving love that sex in and of itself demands.  Alone-ness.


“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience love and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” (From the encyclical, Redemptor Hominis — “Redeemer of Man”)

How do they do it?  Or, perhaps the better questions is, can they do it? Can human beings essentially separate the emotion and decision of love away from the very act of 'making love?'  


Virtus in Media Stat

College is upon us...and the first week is done (well, for me at least.  Maybe you haven't even started yet, you lucky soul.)  As each semester rolls around, I always find myself with lists upon lists of things that I've made for myself in areas that I know I can improve.

I have lists and pinterest boards galore for polishing up my eating habits after a summer subsisting on root beer floats, organizing my closet that has exploded over the room, organizing my list of books to read and movies to watch...putting together exercise plans....which is usually the first one to fall off the bandwagon with the first Panera cinnamon roll that crosses my path.

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Each beginning of the school year presents with it a blank slate, open wide to the possibility of improvement.  It's a chance to smash down the wall between the current version of yourself and the best-version-of-yourself (#MatthewKelly) that is constantly seeming to escape our grasp.

What's the secret?  How in the world does the balance between schoolwork, social activities, responsibilities, and improvement happen?

A simple Latin phrase....Virtus in Media Stat. And the translation? Virtue Stands in the Middle.

So often it's easy to go crazy on resolutions.  You should see my list on December 31st that I ring in the New Year with.  Pages upon pages of things I know that I can physically and mentally accomplish, but by January 3rd (If I'm lucky) the list has been reduced to nothing because I've either given in or given up.

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Moderation. Temperance. The middle ground.  Middle Earth.  It's not just my mind wandering on a late Sunday night - J.R.R. Tolkien had some great things to say about starting new habits.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Sam's grandfather says, “It's the job that's never started that takes longest to finish.” 

It's not just a concept for hobbits...it's pretty practical in our everyday life as well.  So here are the top three tips I've received on becoming who God created you to be - fully alive.

1) Moderation 
It's easy to stack our planners full of things we want to do, are asked to do, feel called to do.  But take it from the girl who worked seven jobs (at one time) last summer.  Sometimes less...is more.  Don't be afraid of that open time in your planner.  Yes, you could be doing something.  But don't be afraid of spontaneous visits with friends, time to sit in silence and just relax, or that adoration chapel you've been wanting to stop into but never have the time.  Don't be afraid to schedule free time, as ironic as that sounds.

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2) Accountability
Are you going to try to make it to morning Mass more often? Planning on training for that marathon? What about that book you said you were going to read...two years ago? Ask someone to tackle the challenge together.  Maybe it's your room mate, sister, or girlfriend.  But don't be afraid to ask for someone to keep you accountable.  The path to Heaven is a journey that is meant to be walked together.

3) ForgivenessYou're going to slip and fall sometimes - if only because of the fact that you are human and not perfect.  What matters when that happens is how you learn from your mistakes and move on.  Don't spend the time after the mistake wallowing on what you could have done.  Now is time time of thinking how you can avoid that mistake in the future.  So find what triggers you to give up on your process of becoming a better person, and then remove that from that path.  But keep walking.

Do you have any tips for how you stand in the middle when it comes to virtue and self improvement? Share them below in the comment box!

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5 Tips for Catholic College Students

In less than a week, my last semester of my junior year starts. It's an experience that has flown by faster than you can say "textbook rental" - but I've learned so much along the way.  So whether you are just starting college, or returning for another year in the trenches, here are my top five hints that I've learned - advice from a seasoned college vet as you will.

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Calling all the college students


1) Make Time for Prayer

Conversation (talking and listening) with God is one thing that can keep the craziness that is college life in check.  However, prayer is usually the first thing that gets shoved to the back burner once college starts for me.  The hint that I got from a friend my freshman year was to make my prayer time an unmovable appointment in my calendar.  Literally pencil in 'time with God' in for a certain time during the day and keep that appointment.  You wouldn't call and cancel coffee with your best friend because you weren't suddenly feeling up to it.  So don't do that with your conversation with God.

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Running to my God appointment 

2) Emphasize Christ-Centered Friendships
The word for 'religion' and the word for 'relationship' have the same root - there's a reason.  No man is an island, especially in the sea of college life.  Find friends who are going to hold you accountable, who are going to challenge your faith life and who are going to push you towards Christ.  Friends who are going to get to know you well enough that when you say 'I'm fine' they know something is up.  Friends who don't let you pack your faith away with your high school diploma and who tell you when you mess up.  Friends to laugh, cry, and grow with.  Friendships centered in your most mutual friend - Christ. 
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which leads to.....

3) Find your Newman Center

When I was a freshman in college, the Newman center was on my way home from work.  I'd get off at 6 pm, and the center would open at 7 pm for fellowship on Wednesday.  I cannot tell you how many times I took the turn for home instead of the campus center and had to turn myself around and decide to go the campus center.  It's not an instant thing - there are going to be awkward moments, and funny moments, and moments you'll relive again and again once you get in there and get comfortable.  Some of my best friends from my Newman center are people that I would have never have guessed would know all the things they know about me now.  But I never would have met them if I hadn't gone to the Newman center.  So get yourself to one. 
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Surprise friends are the best friends 


4) Reach out and don't be afraid to evangelize 

Your Catholic faith is going to be challenged.  Despite the college you go to, the time spent at the Newman center, the friendships you form.  It's inevitable - someone is going to ask you why you're Catholic.  It could be in a class, where the only time the Catholic Church is talked about is when it's being bashed.  It could be in the form of a room mate who wants to know why Catholics do what they do.  It could be in a conversation in the cafeteria.  Regardless of where it is, don't be afraid to be blatantly Catholic.  The world needs more Catholic nerds - embrace it.  But also don't be afraid of not knowing the answer.  We belong to a church that has been around for over 2,000 years....questions that are asked in 2015 have been answered - we just have to do some research.  So never be afraid of the response "That's a good question - and I don't know the answer.  But I know there is one out there.  Can I do some research for you and get back with you?"  They're more impressed by your humility of admitting that you don't know then by you avoiding an answer.  
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I will find an answer....I promise

5) Find your devotion


Find something to keep you grounded in your faith life.  Similar to not letting your daily appointment with God down.  It could come in many different forms - maybe you're going to make it to morning Mass two times a week.  Or say a rosary every day.  Or learn more about the saints.  But have a game plan and stick to it.  Oh, and remember the friends you met in tip number 2? Don't be afraid to bond further with them over your commonly shared faith.  Start a Bible study together, or meet at the grotto to say a novena.  But having a goal in mind makes it easy to stay on target.
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When I talk about Eucharistic Adoration 


What were tips you were given when you started college?  Do you have any tips for those going in to college?  Are you starting your first year? What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!

In Christ,

Chloe 
 

Who are you?

I'm one of those people who can find happiness in the weird, small things.  Some people probably think I'm crazy - but this world is so full of amazing things to like.  I'm very easily excited by a house with a red door, a really great YouTube video, getting to spend time playing outside with a big dog, or my favorite book being in at the library when I hadn't requested it.

I'm a homeschool graduate through and through...I love reading.  Ever since high school, I've read like crazy.  I read the 'normal stuff,' like classics, modern literature, juvenile fiction.  But I also read 'not so normal stuff' too, backs of magazines, Kraft's message to me on the back of their Mac and Cheese boxes and weird non fiction books.  Example: Last summer, my project was a 900 page biography of Ted Williams, a Red Sox left fielder whose son had his remains cryonically frozen.  I couldn't tell you the reason why I picked that book.  I love watching baseball, but I love the game itself and not the teams, and I'm not even a huge Red Sox friend.  But even though I don't know why Ted Williams was my summer reading, I do know that random. weird subject topic reading is fascinating to me.

I love coffee.  I had my first cup at age ten and then after that, forget about it.  I easily drink through a pot a day, and it's probably one of my biggest expenses during the college year.  I've visited every cafe in town, have my favorites, and like to think they recognize me when I walk through the door.  Thanks to my sister's job as a barista, I am pretty well versed in the menu.  That's right, I know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino - be amazed.  I can even make my own espresso.   And I know it's cliche, to be the college girl who likes coffee, but it's me.

I know what I love.  My favorite band, my favorite movie, my favorite ice cream flavor.  I know my passions, my best friend saints, favorite Bible verses, and dog breed.

Do you?

Do you know who you are? Who is your identity?  What is your story?

Know who you are - your identity in God.  But know who you are, not for yourself or for your own benefit, but so that you can be a gift.  

Whitney Houston sang this song called Greatest Love of All.  And in it, she sings, "The greatest love of all is easy to achieve  - leaning to love yourself is the greatest love of all."

Sorry to break it to Whitney, but you were wrong.  It's not the love of yourself that will fill your heart to bursting and make you want to sing to the world about how great life is.  John 15:13 says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."  Great love - no, the greatest love?  It's selfless.

Love is sacrifice - and that involves a sacrifice of yourself.  So don't know who you are so that you can keep it to yourself.  Know who you are so that you can connect with others and than bring them to Christ.  Know yourself so that you can form friendships that are Christ centered, but are also common-centered.  Being passionate about something opens your possibilities and your awareness that, frankly, this world is amazing.  And God-filled.  And awe-inspiring.

If there is something you do this summer...live.  Explore.  Fall in love with God and ask Him who He created you to be.

Pope Francis told the youth of a Roman college "You were made to live...not just exist."

Sounds like a good life motto to me.

Is God Irrelevant?

This Spring Break I went on an incredible hiking trip (which I could probably dedicate at least ten posts to...more on that later.)  One of the blessings on the trip was meeting some bomb.com people...one of whom wrote this article.  Matt is a sophomore at Emporia State University and he's studying sociology. 

About a month ago, I read an article in the ESU Bulletin written by a student entitled; “Change in Religion.” As I read it I found that it was not a particularly joyful or necessarily exciting article to read. The author simply claimed that the people of this world no longer rely on God to fulfill their daily needs, such as food or water, or to get them out of horrific situations, such as slavery or poverty.

Whereas the author did agree with the morals of the Christian faith, he no longer felt it was necessary to pray, attend church or even to believe in God for that matter. Simply put, he believed God was irrelevant to today’s world. While I strongly disagreed with this article, it did get my attention by making it clear to me that some of us may not understand why we worship God in the first place.

You might be wondering why we should even believe in God to begin with. It does seem silly, does it not? The idea of an all mighty being in the clouds watching over us, especially with all of the scientific evidence we have of the Big Bang theory and natural selection. To answer this question I turn to one of my favorite writers, Christian apologetic, Peter Kreeft.

In Kreeft’s article, “The Reasons to Believe,” he claims that, “where there is design there must be a designer.” Ultimately he explains that if you were to find a deserted island with “S.O.S” written in the sand, you would not think the letters came out of nowhere. You would not think that the waves washed up onto the sand and left the message behind. No, because of logic and reason you would know that someone, a “designer,” created the message. 


The same goes for the entire universe; where 
there is creation, there must be a creator. Now you might say “well that is great and all, but what about all that scientific evidence we now have?” It is not my intention to tell you that everything in your biology textbook is nonsense, or that the Big Bang never happened. My goal however is to persuade you to have faith that, if it were to happen this way, that it was God driven. This is the way the designer chose to design his creation.

I would assume someone reading this is thinking, “even if God is real, I already have all the things I need; food, clothing, shelter, and money. I am happy with my life already, why would I need to pray or continuously attend a church?” With this kind of thinking, you fall into the same trap as the author of “Change in Religion.”

You see, God is not just a good luck charm or a lucky rabbit’s foot that we call upon when things are not going so well for us. God is our creator, our friend, our heavenly father, and the entire reason for our existence. For all of these things, we should be grateful and therefore desire a personal relationship with him.

Compare this to a relationship with a friend, a family member, or maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend. You get to know these people by talking to them, learning more about them and spending time with them. The same can be said about God. You get to know God by talking to him and spending time with him through prayer and worship. In order to have a relationship with God you must put in the time and effort just like any other relationship.

Whether or not you believe in the same God as I do, is not important for the sake of this article. What is important to take away from this is that science alone can never explain all that this world is or how we got here. The only explanation we have for all of this is God as our designer and creator. Also, God is not just there to take care of our earthly needs. He is there to guide us closer to him so that we can obtain the personal relationship with him that should be desirable for us all.

God is still very much present and relevant to this world, and I will leave it at that.