5 Reasons Why I Hate Confession

confession I'm not a regular to the confession lines at my Church.  It's not that I don't appreciate the sacramental value and beauty of the forgiveness of sins - I do.  If you're struggling with going to confession I'll be first in line to tell you about the incredible sacramental benefits and graces waiting to flood into your soul after you make a good confession.  But if there is one sacrament that I have to prepare the most for, it's the sacrament of reconciliation. If you want my honest opinion, I'll admit it...I hate going.

Confession means admitting I messed up and don't have it all together I'm a perfectionist so confession rips into my heart.  For the most part, I'm able to keep up a pretty good mask even when things are falling apart.  I'll say 'it's fine' or 'I'm good' when people ask how I'm doing.  So to go to confession and list areas where I've fallen means having to be vulnerable and admit that I'm not okay, and it's not all good.

"A soul does not benefit from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble.  Pride keeps it in darkness.  The soul neither knows how, nor is willing, to probe with precision the depths of its own mercy.  It puts on a mask and avoid everything that might bring it to recovery." (Saint Faustina) 

Confessions mean saying my sins out loud to the person the sin hurt the most

When I confess my sins in the confessional, the priest stands In Persona Christi, in the person of Christ.  This means that the priest does not represent himself, or give the words of absolution as Father so-and-so, but he speaks as the Other - as Christ.  This is beautiful.  But it also means that I whisper through the screen (or face to face) to the one who I hurt the most. I listen the words of the man I nailed to the cross with my sins.  Which is incredible for reparation and repair, and incredibly humbling.

Confession means admitting I haven't improved much since the last time in the confessional.

For the majority of my confession, I spend time repeating the same sins that I said in confession the last time.  Pride. Envy. Pride. Selfishness. Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  It feels like I transform into  a broken record the minute I walk into the confessional.  When I really start to think about it, I discover that the reason I'm being repetitive is because I haven't made a good effort to change.  I haven't avoided occasions of sin, sometimes I've even encouraged them.

"The confession of evil works is the first beginnings of good works" (Saint Augustine) 

Confession means admitting I need help

I don't ask for help often.  When I get to the point of vocalizing stress or worries, the levels of stress and worry have hit pretty high levels.  So to have to ask for help from Christ vocally is rough for me.  I know He knows about my imperfection, but vocalizing and actually asking for advice and help is a large step.  It is delving into humility, which given my top vice, is never easy.

"Confession is an act of honesty and courage - an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God" (Saint Pope John Paul II) 

Confession means I have to change

There is a line in the Act of Contrition that yanks at me every time I say it. "..confess my sins, do penance and amend my life." Amend my life. Amend means to "alter by a formal procedure."  The word itself is French, amender, around the early thirteenth century.   It meant "to free from faults, to rectify."  To free...to walk free.  But that means that I shouldn't desire to go chain myself again to the same sins.  I have to change my daily life and run away from those occasions of sin.  I have to change...

My thoughts, the intimate life of my soul, are torn this way and that in the havoc of change. And so it will be until I am purified and melted by the fire of Your love and fused into one with You.” (St. Augustine) 

Yet however many reasons I can come up with for not going to confession, I still need the sacrament.  In fact, my avoidance of the sacrament shows that my soul needs it even more than I think.  The devil doesn't want us to go to confession - he doesn't want us to repair our relationship with Christ.  My soul craves closeness with my maker, and sin blocks me from fullness of communion with HIM.

This weekend I'm headed to the confessional line...will you join me in the sacrament? 

Punctuated with Imperfect Hallelujahs

imperfect I'll admit it...I'm a perfectionist.  I've cried over a 79% grade on a draft of a paper, read through and edit my texts, and change outfits on average of two times before I leave the house.  I measure out things when I cook, (how can a recipe call for a pinch of salt? That's just an open invitation for inaccuracy) hesitate to ask questions that will make me sound stupid, and write notes to myself on my hands because I cannot, will not forget anything.

On most days, instead of striving for sainthood, I strive for flawlessness.  Yet  when that impossible goal is missed, as it always will be on this earth, I'm left in a devastating tailspin, wondering what in the world I've done wrong.  I'm not perfect.  But I spend a lot of time beating myself up over times of inevitable imperfection.

God craves the raw us.  The struggling, imperfect, help-me-I-can't-do-this-alone us that yearns for completion in His heart.  He stands as a father, watching out the window everyday for us to return to Him.  At the first glance of us, He bolts down the pathway, arms open, smile broadly reaching across His face, eyes crinkled with absolute joy at the return of His child.  The return of you. 

Striving for absolute perfectionism and believing it is possible to never mess up and always make the right decision is an insult to God.  By believing you can be perfect, you're saying 'I've got this. I don't need help.  I'll figure it out.  This shows an inadequate gratitude for a God who poured Himself into humanity so that He could save you from your imperfection. The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes. (CCC 2015) 

What is at the root of perfectionism? Pride.  There is no holiness without renouncing oneself.  Pride loves the self, and skirts away at the signs of mortification.

So it is not a surprise that I struggle with both of these issues.  I'll be the first to admit that my pride has squelched the joy out of living multiple times.  It's the sin that tells me I do not need the grace of the sacrament of confession, and is the first out of my mouth when I finally drag myself into the confession line.  Pride says you can achieve perfection.  Pride says you don't need anyone.  Pride says you're the best already and there is no room for improvement.

And there couldn't a bigger lie.  

Because pride leaves you worshiping yourself.  And you are far too loved by the Creator of the Universe to be the only thing standing in the way of eternal bliss.  You are far to intelligent and beautiful, mercifully forgiven and capable to abuse yourself by holding a standard of impossible perfection.

We are not called to perfection.  We are called to holiness.  As much holiness as we can possibly fit into our lives.  Shaken down and poured over holiness that soaks every aspect of our being - from the moment of the alarm going off in the morning to the last slow blink before closing your eyes at night.

Yet Matthew 5:48 says "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Isn't that a call to perfection?  The Greek definition of the word 'perfect' (Telios) means 'the full purpose' or the 'full vocation.'  So our vocation is to reach Heaven.  Strive for Holiness as your Heavenly Father is complete.  We are called to best-version-of-ourselves, dead on sprinting to Christ and His goodness.  We're called to strive for the holiness of God while still acknowledging that until that final goal of Heaven is reached, we won't be perfect as He is perfect.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13).

Let our lives be punctuated with the sound of imperfect Hallelujahs.  The joyful din of a people striving to sing the perfect song of God, despite the fear of falling short.  Be filled with the joy  of knowing the infinite mercy of a perfect God.  Know that our imperfections are not too big for Him to envelope in His goodness.  Lift your voice, as off-key as it may be, to the maker of the Heavens.

And know that it's okay to not be perfect.  

 

Bind my Wandering Heart: Chained & Consecrated to Mary

chain Over the past couple of weeks, The Blessed Mother and I have gotten a lot closer as soul friends.  The mornings that I have during my babysitting job are usually spent on a nature walk, where I say a rosary and chat with Mary.  We have quite a bit to talk about these days, with a lot of changes and vocation discernment.  Especially with my desires to stay home with littles, I wanted an example of someone who dedicated her life to the Lord's vocational plan for her as a mother.

Who better to imitate than the Blessed Virgin herself? Her humility, gentleness, caring spirit and docility to God's will are all character traits of hers that I am no where close to accomplishing myself.  Which is why I'm renewing my Marian consecration this summer and delving further into Mary's Immaculate Heart.

What is Marian Consecration?

You're renewing your what? If that's the question you had after reading that last section, let's take a crash course through what a Marian Consecration is.  St. Louis de Monfort, a French saint, had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.   He introduced the concept of consecrating oneself to Mary in the 18th century, and the practice has only bloomed from then.  Great saints such as Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and Maximilian Kolbe have entrusted themselves to Jesus through Mary.

Louis de Monfort's practice of total consecration is made up of seven components: acknowledging one's own unworthy state, deepening one's faith like Mary did, giving God pure love, becoming totally confident in God and Mary's abilities, joining with the spirit of Mary, transforming into the likeness of Christ, and giving all the glory to Christ.

The book that I use for my Marian Consecration is by Michael E. Gaitley, MIC.  It's called 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration.  It goes through St. Louis life, as well as some major rock star saints who loved the Blessed Virgin.  After 33 days of preparation, you end on one of the great Marian feast days and consecrate yourself to Mary at the end.

A Marian Slave After my first Marian consecration last summer, I adventured down to the local hardware store and picked out 6 inches of chain.  I looped it around my ankle and used a pair of pliers to set it in place.  I plan on wearing it to the grave.

Let me tell you, it's sometimes inconvenient wearing a chain around your ankle.  For instance, I usually have to buy a half size up on my shoes now that I have a chain to account for.  I know what you're thinking: This seems a little extreme - a chain? What does it symbolize?

St. Louis de Montfort wrote about the practice of wearing a chain after the consecration prayer as a physical symbol of total consecration to Mary.

"Thus set free, we are bound to Jesus and Mary not by compulsion and force like galley-slaves, but by charity and love as children are to their parents. "I shall draw them to me by chains of love" said God Most High speaking through the prophet. Consequently, these chains are as strong as death, and in a way stronger than death, for those who wear them faithfully till the end of their life. For though death destroys and corrupts their body, it will not destroy the chains of their slavery, since these, being of metal, will not easily corrupt. It may be that on the day of their resurrection, that momentous day of final judgment, these chains, still clinging to their bones, will contribute to their glorification and be transformed into chains of light and splendor. Happy then, a thousand times happy, are the illustrious slaves of Jesus in Mary who bear their chains even to the grave."

The chain on my ankle has become a symbol of something deeper - a desire to bind my wandering heart to Mary.  Why Mary? Why not directly to Christ? Because Christ loves His Mother.  One of my favorite stories about the interaction between Christ and Mary is John 2:1-12.  Mary sees the groom and bride have run out of wine.  So she turns to Christ and ask Him to work a miracle, even though it's not His time yet.  She simply turns to the servants and says "Do whatever He tells you."  Mary knows Christ's heart - He is her son after all.  So who better to bind myself to? The Blessed Mother acknowledges my desires and heart aches and brings them before her son for me.  What a gem.

Do-it-yourself Consecration

Are you interested in consecrating yourself to the Blessed Virgin? Check out Deacon Keith's article on more Marian theology.  After you're ready to start your consecration, there are a couple of options.  You can go with the original St. Louis de Monfort's approach,  join myself and Father Gaitley on the 33 day miniature retreat, and even focus on the most recent Marian Saint, Pope John Paul II with this specific retreat with his writings.

Femininity is Not a Hair Length

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When I was a senior in high school, I decided to chop all of my hair off.  It was shoulder length, a weird texture combination of frizzy and wavy, and in sore need of some attention.  I had dyed it every natural color under the sun, from blonde to black.  I'd straightened it, permed it, and generally abused it.  So off it went.  When the hairstylist turned my chair around and I saw short-hair-me for the first time, I fell in love with pixie cuts.  It was different.  It was unique.  It was...Chloe.

Short hair became my signature look.  I started college that fall and there were barely any other girls with short hair.  I stuck out and people remembered me pretty easily just based on my haircut.  My personal style evolved and my hair played a role in the shaping of my personal style.

After we got engaged,  I began to ponder what hair length I would want for the day of the wedding.  The question was further mulled over after the question that I heard over and over was 'Are you growing your hair out for the wedding?'  So  I decided to try it.  After all, it had been almost four years since I had seen myself with long hair.  Things that I didn't like about it could have changed.  Maybe the texture was different now.  Maybe I was more patient in dealing with that awkward stage between looking like Justin Bieber and rocking an #throwbackthursday 1980's mullet. But as the months between haircuts stretched on and on, I quickly realized that I am still not patient.  The more my hair inched along in growth, the more it didn't feel like 'me,' it didn't feel like a Chloe thing to do.  I prayed about it, asked for opinions and began to think about it quite a bit more than I had originally.  Verily Magazine author Gail Werner wrote, "Historically, hair length has aligned itself with society's notions of femininity. Consider the juxtaposition of the rebellious flapper bob of the 1920s with the more ladylike bouffant of the Gibson girl. Or how a pixie crop worn by Twiggy in the sixties was considered androgynous whereas the long hair and feathered bangs of the 1970s-era Farrah Fawcett was the epitome of sexiness."  She's right - we've fallen into the trap of connoting long hair with attractiveness, sexiness, desirability.

I desired that desirability, that beauty.  I was torn between wanting hair long enough that I could run my hand through it, but still loving how amazingly practical short hair is.  With the wedding day approaching, I wanted to be seen as beautiful, feminine.  But none of those things were found solely in the length of my hair.  And when I came to that realization, I ran to the salon (okay, Great Clips.  I'm in college, let's be real).  The ladies there told me how much they had hoped I would keep my hair short for the wedding.  Leave it to hairstylists to know what's on your mind. But more important than realizing that it's possible to have a pixie cut and still feel beautiful, I discovered that femininity is exponentially more than the length of one's hair or even physical appearance in general.  

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to women, in which he said, "Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!" We live in a modern era where beauty is the definition of success and desirability.  But you are worth more than what you look like.  You are a human being who inherently deserves dignity simply based on the fact that you are a child of God.

"It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the "genius of women", not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God's plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church." (JPII)

Femininity is found in giving hearts and kind words.  In sacrifice and thoughts.  In Marian examples.  In caring and living one's life fully for Christ.  Yet our world sees those traits as weakness.  The radical feminist movement has labeled virtue as old fashioned and patriarchal.

True femininity, not what one looks like or the clothes one wears, but true femininity is found in the concept of motherhood.  

Alice Von Hildebrand wrote, "A woman by her very nature is maternal -- for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother -- she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them -- for maternity implies suffering -- is infinitely more valuable in God's sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon." Perhaps that's why the culture has reduced femininity to physical appearances.  Hair length is much easier to perfect than an interior life most assuredly.  Louisa May Alcott wrote, "Let us be elegant or die!" which accurately describes the fascination with the outward.  Defy the culture...turn the focus inward, to the interior.

Motherhood (spiritual or physical) is sacrifice.  It's joyful suffering for the good of the Heavenly family and the eternal life that we're working to.  That virtuous, adventurous life is a lot harder to grow than a couple more inches of hair.  And much more rewarding.

I'm Not a 'Wasted Mind' Because I Don't Have a Graduate Degree

bookworm It was freshman year of college and I sat in the first day of class Monday morning.  The professor's ice breaker question was "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Answers flurried around the groups.  Hopeful future lawyers and entrepreneurs swapped opinions on grad schools.  Social work majors discussed non-profits and the Peace Corp.  When the small circle turned to me, I answered, "Well, I've always wanted to get married and have kids.  If it works out, I'd like to stay home with them and homeschool them."

Stares.  Silence.  Smirks.  This wasn't a popular answer on a University campus.

In comparison to the dreams of my fellow undergrads, my dream sounded...crazy.  Mundane.  Some even called it a waste.  Why would I choose littles when I could choose learning and writing and staying up into the wee hours of the night discussing intellectual topics over lattes and craft beer?  Wasn't I just wasting my time even in my undergrad if I was just going to throw it all away?

I decided to prove them all wrong.  I came up with my life motto and ran with it for the next three years: "The place God calls you to is the place where your deepest passion and the world's greatest hunger intersect" (Frederick Buechner).  Ironically, the place that I saw that hunger was the university campus itself, especially in the way that Catholicism was taught in history classes.

I began to entertain dreams of pencil skirts and practical heeled shoes, lecture podiums and power point clickers. I was enamored with what "Professor Mooradian" sounded like, and how proudly I'd display the diploma that I could almost taste.  I dreamed of late nights spent grading essays (which I'm sure is completely over-romanticized and not nearly as exciting as I picture in my mind) and coffee with students to discuss the beauty of Catholic history.

But I was torn, because deep inside me I still ached for that original dream.  That freshman-year-Chloe answer that I loved so much, despite what people said.  That raw version of me, before I had soaked up the influence of a University environment  - before I listened to what so many people said about me wasting my potential on a family.  So I toyed with the notion that maybe I could do both.  Do it all.  Pick options 'a' AND 'b.'

Over winter break, senior year loomed ahead of me.  Adulthood and decisions beckoned to me.  I was asked to put together my top list of graduate schools where I would venture into the depths of a doctoral degree in history.  I mulled over the list, chatted with students and professors, and dug through course catalogs.  I watched countless video interviews of professors, read random samplings of essays and contemplated life over multiple vanilla lattes.  And after all of that I felt empty.  I wasn't just wrestling with a doctorate adviser, I was battling with whether a doctorate graduate degree was actually my dream, and if so, what ramifications that had for the rest of my life.  Early in January, one night during a family vacation, Joseph and I had a long heart to heart where the reality that decision time was right around the corner hit me.

Don't get me wrong - women who have doctorate degrees are amazing. My favorite professors during my undergraduate degree time have been women who know their subject inside and out and have been an incredible source of knowledge.  But I didn't know if that was for me.  Because, deep down inside of me was a dream that I had...I wanted to stay at home with littles and teach them.  I wanted to see their first steps and tell them about the saints and what the Eucharist meant.  I wanted to cook breakfasts and sew pillowcase dresses.  I wanted to spend the summers with grass underneath my feet and smelling like kid's suntan lotion.

Because, deep down, the issue was much larger than a job decision.  It was a heart decision.  It was a soul-searching, gnawing realization that dragged me to adoration.  A question that tugged at me and left countless journal pages scrawled with my thoughts, prayers, hopes and cries to God for clarity.

I realized that the idea of being a stay-at-home mom scared me.  Because it made me realized this adventure would take a selfless heart that I didn't know if I had.

It would mean balancing and organizing.  Schedules and spontaneity.   Littles with their muddy messes crashing into my muddy heart that wanted only what was good for me. What made me comfortable.  What made me happy.  Which, as it turns out, isn't the healthiest for the soul.  Or sainthood.

So for now, we're planning a wedding for early next year.  And when littles come, they come and bring with them decisions and bridges to cross when we get there.  There is a lot of unknowns right now...and learning to trust God and His plan for us that is better than anything we could have ever imagined.

I'll still read through stacks of books.  And talk about Catholicism and history until everyone wishes I would just be quiet and enjoy the silence.  I'll still drink the same inhumane amount of coffee that I would have had a doctorate been in my future (maybe more, you never know).

Do I know what the future holds? I sure don't.  But I know what I choose is...God's will.  Simplistic and childlike faith that does not come naturally to me.  But I do know that, doctorate or not, I'm called for a life that has peace on the inside, and doesn't always look like the the world's version of success on the outside.  And that's better than okay.  For real.

"Be truly glad...there is wonderful joy ahead." 1 Peter 1:-6

 

Here and Now: Emotional Chastity in a Relationship

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A priest gave a talk that I heard about recently regarding femininity and beauty.  His definition of beauty was simple: Something is beautiful in the sense that it reflects reality.  We are able to recognize the beauty of God's plan for when His creation fulfill their purpose. This perception of beauty as reality is why magazines like Verily have championed in the advertisement department for women's magazines.  Their editors and team reject photo shop and their models are realistic.  Verily's representation of beauty reflects the reality of their model's person-hood.  Women and men are appreciated in their photos as their whole selves, not partially rejected or deemed ugly because of body type, hair length, height or weight.

The ability of beauty to reflect reality applies to more than just physical beauty, though.  It also applies in terms of vocational beauty.  What could be more beautiful than a soul who has listened to voice of his or her maker and discovers the joy of the best versions of themselves? There is a sense of joy the radiates from the lives of priests, sisters, nuns, brothers, friars, married couples and consecrated singles when they are living a life fully dedicated to the reality God planned for them.  I remember going to a Steubenville conference my junior year of high school and, for the first time, having the chance to interact with people on fire in their religious vocations.  It was incredible to see people who were so blatantly in love with not only their calling in life and those around them, but with the God who gave them that calling.

So, this brings us to the beauty of reality in a romantic relationship where two people are discerning the vocation of marriage together.  There is a temptation to slip into the fantasized beauty of non-reality through the rejection of the virtue of chastity.  Not necessarily within a physical context - but through the thoughts and conversations that guide your interaction as a couple.   It can be easy to give into the temptation that emotional unchastity offers -to reject ideas of keeping your heart in check because what you feel entitled to thoughts about your future when you're dating someone.

Gone are the days of jumping mentally from one person to the next and dreaming of potential relationships.  You're in a relationship after all, shouldn't emotional chastity not be a concern anymore?

From my own personal experience, especially the case of an intentional relationship, emotional chastity is a beast.  If both people in the relationship are regularly discussing things like marriage, intentional communication, ways to challenge the other person, the continual process of taking off masks and showing the other person your weakest points, then the bonding that occurs over the shared experience of your relationship has potential to turn into a seemingly justified flinging off of emotional chastity.  It seems like a right - of course you can allow yourself to dream about your future with your significant other (mentally, or verbally in conversation with them as well) because your future is inevitable, it's purposeful and you could marry this person, right?

Wrong.  Intentional relationships beg for a better grasp on emotional chastity.  If you completely abandon yourself to projection of a future relationship, you start to lose the beauty of the here and now.  Going back to the phrase about beauty reflecting reality, the reality of your relationships is probably the fact that you can't get married to that other person right now.  You may have the spiritual, emotional and physical attraction down, but your situation may hinder that marriage commitment.  Maybe you're long distance and need to proceed with an awareness that you haven't seen each other in day-to-day living.  Maybe you are both students at different schools and your programs require you to be fully present.  Regardless of the situation, the reality of the situation is what it is...and no amount of future planning can change that.

Is it tempting to let conversations about your best friends lead to who you want in your wedding party? Yes.  Is it enticing to let chats about travel lead to where you'd like to spend your honeymoon together? Mhmm.  Is that helping your relationship though? Or is it taking the here and now and trampling it underfoot as you rush off, even if it's just a verbal journey, down the road of the future?

This, once again, can get especially tricky in the phrase between committed dating and an engagement.  Look at your left hand.  Is there an engagement ring on it? If not, you probably don't need to be spending your free time on Pinterest planning out your wedding colors.  Even if you do have a guy beside you who very well could be at the end of the aisle one day in the not-so-distant future, reducing your relationship down to a wedding can prove detrimental to not only your relationship, but also your future potential marriage to that human being.

The time of dating before engagement, and even the time of engagement, allows a unique opportunity to love the other person in your relationship with in a unique way.  This is a time set apart in the relationship process for delving down into the reality (read: beauty) of the other person.  Their personality, desires, hopes and plans.  Their jokes, the way they say certain words that makes you smile, the simplicity of appreciating another person for who they are.  Can those things still be experienced in marriage? Absolutely - but in a different sense.  Don't throw away the here and now and the beauty of reality just to jump into a white dress and tux and run down the aisle.

Chastity gives couples in a relationship an environment to truly and selflessly love each other and will the other's good.  Enjoy it...the future will worry about itself, and will come sooner than you think.

Love Languages and The Crucifixion

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Throughout the season of Lent, if there is one thing that has become increasingly apparent to me in my spiritual life, it is how God loves our hearts so well. That may seem like a very naive realization - after all, we've been singing "Jesus loves me" since kindergarten, so the idea that God loves us on a personal level shouldn't be a shocker.  But the further I fall in love with the maker of my soul, the more I realize that His love is radical and specific to the desires of our heart. Which makes sense of course - the very essence of God is love (1 John 4:8).  His ultimate gift to us is salvation and the gift of Heaven  - if we choose, through acts of the will, to align our lives in accordance with His plan.  For a God whose very essence is love, it makes sense that the cross has the ability to be inclusive of every human being's love language.  Christ's love demonstrated on the cross is not an exclusive, members-only love.  Instead, it is an all-encompassing love affair between God and His people.

Gary Chapman is the famed author of the book "5 Love Languages," in which he explains that every person has a love language that they speak - one that best fills their love tank to the brim.  In relationships, romantic especially, two people can speak different love languages, and misinterpret the other's desire to love them.

"In the book, I share some of my encounters with couples through the years that brought me to realize that what makes one person feel loved does not necessarily make another person feel loved. For a number of years, I have been helping couples in the counseling office discover what their spouse desired in order to feel loved. Eventually, I began to see a pattern in their responses. Therefore, I decided to read the notes I had made over twelve years of counseling couples and ask myself the question, “When someone sat in my office and said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what did they want?” Their answers fell into five categories. I later called them the five love languages."

But there never has to be that confusion from God concerning how to love YOU.  He made you and knows the count of hairs on your head.  So loving you but failing to speak your love language isn't possible with Him. His sacrifice on the cross encompasses ever love language possible.

Find your love language below and discover Christ's love for you and your heart on the cross.

Quality Time: Christ loves you so desperately that he would rather hang on a tree than run the risk of not spending eternity with you. There is an incredible amount of love through the language of  quality time felt throughout the crucifixion process and even after Christ's death here on earth.

The Crucifixion opens up an incredible potential for quality time with Christ - essentially because the crucifixion is not bound by the human concept of time.  Christ died for every sin that was and would be, so his crucifixion exists out of time.  This means that even today, in 2016, Christ's crucifixion is still present, and our interaction with Him and with sin have potential to add weight to the cross.

Yet, because of Christ's actions during the last supper, He is available all the time even today through His true presence in the Eucharist. He's never not present in the consecrated host.  In my life, There are times when I desperately ache for interaction with my boyfriend, my best friend, and my sisters.  Yet they're not there constantly, they aren't always accessible.  They're in meetings, in different towns, at the doctors, working on homework, eating dinner, out with friends, you name it.  But Christ is always there, waiting for interaction and quality time with me.  That quality time originates at the Last Supper, and is brought to fruition on the cross.

Physical Touch:

Beautifully, the tangible love of God is not bound by the nails that hold His hands and feet to the cross. Instead, the physical aspect of His love continues with the sacrament of the Eucharist.  In Persona Christi, through the priest, Christ offers His body relentlessly in the Mass daily throughout the world.

Christopher West speaks about this when he talks about his wife's father, who he never met.  He tells the story  “At Mass the day after his wedding, having just consummated his marriage the night before, he was in tears after receiving the Eucharist. When his new bride inquired, he said, ‘For the first time in my life, I understood the meaning of Christ’s words, ‘This is my body given for you.’”

Christ gives us His very body - not holding any part of Himself back.  His sacrificial love is a free, total, faithful and fruitful gift for His bride, the Church.  Beautifully, here at the cross, Christ also embodies the beauty Pope Saint John Paul II taught about through Theology of the Body...but that's a whole other blog post.

Acts of Service:

Christ hung on the cross for over three hours, His breath ragged, His body desperately yearning for relief.  He hung on that cross for you - the ultimate act of service, especially in comparison to our human attempts at acts of selfless love.  Christ's death on the cross was not for your temporary good  - Dear, let me unload the dishwasher for you so that you have more time...even though I'll have to unload it again tomorrow too.  Nor was it for His own benefit - Here, let me help you go get groceries so we can get the pantry stocked and make dinner.

His death was the most selfless act of service that has ever existed.  Christ was not tainted by the presence of sin, yet He took upon Himself the weight of your sins so that He could love you eternally.

Words of Affirmation:

Gary Chapman touches on this, pointing to Luke 23:24, "Jesus said, 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'"

Yet Catholicism offers a continuation of that love thanks to the beauty of Holy Thursday.  Christ gave his disciples the power of the persona of Christ - whose sins they forgave, they were forgiven.  Whose sins they retained, they were retained.  And so, the most beautiful words of affirmation that a human being can hear are those in the confessional:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Your Son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.  Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace.  And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Gift Giving:

There are an incredible amount of gifts that Christ gives to you during His time on the cross.

"When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." Christ gives us His mother, with his disciple representing humankind.  Mary becomes a channel through which we can grow closer to the heart of Christ, thanks to her intercession.

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit." Matthew 27:50  The Son of God, the Second person in the Blessed Trinity, gives the gift of His life so that you can live eternally with Him

It's a gift - it isn't forced, or mandatory or non-returnable.  The beauty of the gifts that Christ pours out on the cross lies in the fact that you have the choice to accept them.  Will you?

John Paul II Proves Men and Women Can Be Friends

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It is no secret that I am such a fan-girl of Pope Saint John Paul II.  I've loved him as a saint, his writing sends chills down my spine, and he is the greatest contributor to my favorite subject - Theology of the Body.  He's the patron saint of my relationship, my best friend to talk to in the car, and my constant companion as I embark on my writing journey.  You really can't go wrong.  He hiked mountains, traveled the world, canonized so many of my heavenly friends and showed me that it is possible for guys and girls to be friends. John Paul II had deep friendships with the women in his life and he left us a trail to follow in order to learn how to love {read:agape} others so well.  On an insanely exciting level, new letters have just been released documenting John Paul II's friendship with a woman named Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.

They wrote philosophy together, hiked mountains with youth groups, enjoyed the outdoors, meaningful conversation and genuine friendship.

But then, in 1975, Anna-Teresa wrote that she loved then-Cardinal Karol.  His reaction was not the typical, worldly response.  He could have easily given into the temptation, but instead he sent her a scapular as a reminder of the purpose of their friendship: Heaven.  To push each other to be the best-versions-of-themselves and value the roles of their respective vocations.

Granted, that is the best case scenario response.  The typical JPII response, which of course is completely counter cultural and non-typical for the society we live in today and the cycle of use that has existed since Adam and Eve disobeyed God.

Gosh darn it Adam and Eve - that's the most heart wrenching after-affect of original sin.  The beauty of the complete appreciation of other human beings for who they are and not what they can give was destroyed when sin entered the world.  Human beings had to put clothes on and become conscious of the concupiscence that now became a factor in their life.  But more importantly, the tendency to use others - especially those of the opposite sex - started tearing apart at the human foundation of interaction and virtuous friendship got a heck of a lot harder with the introduction of the supposed friend zone.

The dreaded 'friend zone. - when one of the people in the friendship starts developing feelings at an unmatched or unrequited level.  I'm not a fan of the friend zone.  This dislike doesn't arise from the fact that I've spent time in that zone, or banished others to there.  Here's the thing.  If the only reason that you are entering into a friendship is so that there is potential for being more-than-friends later on, than you've already started spiraling into a cycle of use.  You're not appreciating the image of God within the other person, but instead are reducing them down to what they can give you.  Whether that is emotions or security or status...you're using them.  The relationship is what you can get, and not what you can give.  Is their friendship not good enough unless it blossoms into something? Or is their friendship a good in and of itself?

Call me crazy, but I truly believe men and women can be friends.  Look at all of the saintly friendships as examples.  Men and women who have strived after God's heart and sainthood and they did it along side the opposite gender.  Saint Francis and Saint Claire.  Saint Pope John Paul II and {soon-to-be} Saint Mother Teresa.  St. Teresa of Avila and  Don Francisco de Salcedo.  St. Ignatius and Dona Isabel Roser.  St. Boniface and Abbess Eangyth.  The list goes on and on - because it is possible.  The world taints and skews and rips apart what friendship has the potential for...but at it's core, a virtuous friendship is possible.

However, the culture today results in a very perilous predicament.  The hyper-sexualization of society in general results in the blatant acceptance of use.  It is an everyday occurrence to abuse the femininity and masculinity of others in order to advance one's own standing in life.  In the ideal world, these friendships would come naturally and not stir up the wrong type of love.  Philial friendship does not have to lead into Eros love...but we tend to push it that way.  Additionally, even if a man and a woman maintain a solid virtuous friendship, the world constantly asks why they aren't a couple - it's the assumed next step.

Fact: Masculinity and femininity compliment each other beautifully.  Why? Because it's ingrained into how God made the two sexes.  Men think differently than women, and vice versa.  In a multitude of scenarios, the solution begs for both vantage points.  But that won't occur if we are perpetually declaring that men and women simply cannot channel their emotions and appreciate the other as a child of God.

So if there is a constant struggle within your relationships to maintain a healthy friendship, then perhaps the friendship that truly needs rehabilitation is the ultimate friendship: Christ and yourself.  Because from that foundation, everything is built upon, and without it, nothing makes sense.

 

The Danger of the Pinterest Life

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I'm going to come clean.  I love pinterest.  No, that's a drastic understatement.  I adore Pinterest.  The organizing personality aspect of me relishes in the clean tile design.  The optimistic creative spirit inside me revels in the possibility of new crafts and projects - which will inevitably have a 97% failure rate, but that 3% possibility is exciting and full of promise.  There is a constant stream of inspiration that comes across my board in everything from mountain views to toddlers in Halloween costumes.  No judgement. My boards are not quite up to par - mostly because I get wrapped up and distracted looking at other people's boards and creativity and don't ever remember to pin anything of my own.  There is a mix of present and future all mixed together and resulting in a little electronic version of my brain.

But Pinterest is quite the double edged sword.  Because despite the beauty of lining up all of my dreams in order, Pinterest is quite a beast.  A really pretty beast, decorated in sparkles and glitter and painted in ombre tones fitting to the season.

Pinterest is the perfect monster. 

The perfect wardrobe, exceptional fashion and accessory coordinating, creative teaching, delicious cooking, brilliant landscaping and seemingly constant presence of perfectionism eats into me as I scroll through at the end of the night.  The constant stream of perfection wrenches further and further into my self-esteem and can {read: does} leave me feeling worthless, imperfect and lacking confidence in my ability to match cardigans with button-up tops.

That isn't even starting into the incredible controlling aspect of Pinterest.  Not in the sense that it controls me {although my 1:00 am log-ons would beg to differ} but in the fact that it perpetrates the idea that your perfect plan is the only way things can happen.  Can you {gasp} imagine if you got married and your wedding ceremony didn't have those little mason jars lining the sidewalk and your dress didn't look like it does on that Italian model?  Or when you cook, the frustration experienced when your chocolate chip-Oreo-cream cheese- cinnamon rolls don't end up looking exactly like the ones on your board?

It's control.  I have to fight the desire to constantly control everything and make sure my plan happens.  Make sure my sisters see what I've been pinning so that when it comes time for my birthday, they'll know what I'm interested in.  Make sure my fashion board looks coordinated enough so that, in a rush, I can make sure I have some inspiration for the days when the snooze button wins.  Control...control...perfection...control.  Don't let anyone see that you don't have it together sometimes.

The solution? As in all things, virtue stands in the middle.  So don't get me wrong - I'm not telling you to delete Pinterest and shun all things that spark creativity with the fear that you will never create something worthy of a random board of things pinned by people you'll never meet.  What I am gently advising is, as with all things, a sense of quiet discernment.  Yes, even with your Pinterest board.

Pin with intention. {embroider that phrase on a throw pillow, would ya?} Is what you are pinning distracting you from the life you are living now? Is it hindering your ability to see the beauty of your present moment, even if that moment means that your hair looks like the opposite of your inspiration page and your cardigan is slightly wrinkled?  Then it's time to re-evaluate.

Be intentional.

If having a wedding pinterest board is not letting you enjoy your current vocation, delete it.  It's better to go into Heaven with one less wedding dress pin than to enter purgatory bemoaning the times you let emotional chastity catch you up (Matthew 25:4...or something like that).  Point being, it's not bad to be excited about the life God has planned for you - when that's coupled with a trust in His plan...regardless of whether it involves keyhole wedding dresses or campus ministry or school work or whatever beauty He has in mind for you (Jeremiah 29:11...a real Bible verse that has an insane amount of promise packed into a few words.  Check it out.)

Enjoy Pinterest for what it is...don't make your life cycle around the perfection or non-perfection of your current state.  Authentically enjoy every stage and don't get wrapped up in the pinterest-qualities of things.  Trust me, it'll be a lot more rewarding.

Not Just Another Relationship Article

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Facebook knows me all too well, darn social media advertisement algorithms.  It seems that each time I log into my account {which is way too often} a new article pops up on my feed, promising all the secrets of relationships. 5 Tips to Perfect Communication with the Opposite Sex

How to Perfect Your Relationship

Romantic Secrets Everyone Should Know I'm done with those articles.

Before I started dating, and even at the beginning of my relationship, I read them like they were going out business.  But, if there was one thing that reading all of those blogs, articles and books failed to teach me it was that no one is "by the book."  When I would struggle with how to react to a situation and seek advice from those resources, I'd always come up frustrated that no one was writing on what I was going through - there wasn't an article just for my relationship.

Honestly, to consider that each relationship issue, problem, decision or positive impression can be solve by a simple google search or thumbing through a book by a so-called expert is a huge injustice to people as unique and individual children of God.

This isn't to discount the beauty of advice, good counsel and awareness.  There are some amazing resources out there that focus on a holistic view of a relationship.  But click-bait articles from Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire do not help in the formation of a relationship.  If anything, they actually hurt interactions because, in general, they reduce your relationship down to a cycle of use - whether that be for emotional, physical or even spiritual objectification.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship - or a perfect soul mate that has been destined by God from the beginning of time to fix all of your problems and be the strengths to all of your weaknesses.  Hold on, before you start yelling 'cynic' and 'pessimist,' hear me out.  I'm not saying that you can't find or be found by someone who compliments you well, and with whom you can valiantly struggle with towards holiness despite your areas that aren't complimentary.  But, even in the case of a beautiful, sainthood-as-the-goal relationship, it won't fulfill you.

In your heart is a gaping hole - you know which one I'm talking about, the hole that has eaten you when you're lying awake at night, walking on your way to class or sitting at Church.  It's an aching that you can't dismiss and it seems to pop up at the most inconvenient of moments.  But the most glaring characteristic of this hole is that it is God-shaped...which we want to ignore.  Because it's easier to stuff things that aren't God into this hole for temporary relief.  This isn't to discount the beauty of how your relationship with God can influence and interact with your relationship with others.

If you're in a relationship, take time to truly and genuinely get to know the other person.  What their likes, dislikes, passions, pet peeves, frustrations, joys and struggles are cannot be found in the latest dating blog.  Experiences, laughter, tears, and the gift of a life lived together cannot be revealed to you by Aziz Ansari - and I wouldn't trust him even if he did.  You're in a relationship with a human being who was created by God in a unique way, so don't try to squish him or her down into a simple method of relationship tips you found in a google search.  Human beings are messy and muddy and they can't be reduced down to the way you would like the relationship to go.

If you're not in a relationship, the temptation to generalize comes in a whole new slew of ways.  To categorize the opposite sex as "all men" and "all women" simply because it hasn't gone well with a certain few of them is falling into the same trap as I did with my article reading - a failure to realize the beauty of the human experience.  Look at the world the way that God sees it - an adventure full of excitement.  And don't forget the most important relationship in your life, your relationship with God.  Yes, it sounds cheesy and you've probably heard it more than you want to...but it's true. Finding the foundation of that relationship with Christ will make an incredible difference when it does come time to build other relationships.

This weekend is Valentines Day, which means that the world recognizes that human relationships {romantic or not} offer a unique opportunity to love.  However, don't forget that each day you wake up breathing offers a unique opportunity to love.  So tell the people in your life that they are loved, respected and cherished...and don't be afraid to remind them that God loves them more than you will ever be able to.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The God with Broad Shoulders

Contrary to popular belief, I don't have it all together.  There are multiple areas in my life where I usually am in some state of disarray and loss.  We have all made cries to God from the depths of our heart and watched and waited...only for His answer to be "No" or, perhaps even more hard for comprehension, "Wait, there will be a better time for that.  Trust me." The "Wait" answer drives me crazy.   There have been times in my life when I couldn't understand His plan or hand in my life, which for the type-A, obsessed with planning, oldest child and controlling person that I am, was torturous.

I was angry at God.

It wasn't like when I was angry at a person - that I could always get away with either justifying or working through.  But with God?  I was having trouble even wrapping my mind around the emotions that I could even experience anger towards the God who loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me.

I crawled to adoration and poured out my heart in the ink of gel pens and journal pages.  I drenched adoration hours with the sound of countless Hail Mary's, wondering if even my closest mother would desire to listen to me in my anger and struggles.  Many times, I found myself simply staring at the Eucharist, questioning my sanity for believing that, in that tiny white host was contained the God of the Universe.  And then, an even more monstrously shocking realization to struggle with entered my thoughts - that the God under the appearance of the Eucharist wanted a relationship with this broken, muddled life like mine.

Emotions in and of themselves are not bad - in fact, they're neutral.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in part with Saint Thomas Aquinas {what a stud} tackle the subject and say:

In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will. Passions are said to be voluntary, "either because they are commanded by the will or because the will does not place obstacles in their way."  It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason. (CCC 1767)

The beauty of free will results in the ability to channel our passions and emotions.  Passions are amazing things actually, within them held the potential to either glorify God and create a stronger bond with Him, or to sever a relationship with Him due to pride and improper channeling.

So when anger rears its ugly head in our spiritual life, what is the answer? Internalize? Become scrupulous? Bury our anger because we can't possibly be angry with a God who is love itself?

Being a musician, I find that other artists are able to vocalize the themes teaming in my thoughts. In this case, it was the dear old friend of mine, Mumford and Sons who embodied my struggle in their song, "Broad Shouldered Beasts."

But when you feel the world wrapping round your neck,  feel my hand wrapped in yours. And when you feel the world wrapping round your neck, don't succumb. But it's alright, take it out on me.  (Mumford and Sons, Broad Shouldered Beasts)

If we viewed our relationship with God through a similar lens as we viewed our relationships with our best friends, closest family, and dearest lovers, our approach may shift directions. Too often there is a viewpoint presented of God as a being so high in the clouds that we can never consider ourselves close enough to His heart to merit conversation.  There couldn't be a larger lie.

The reality of our relationship with God - or the capacity that we have within our hearts to communicate and commune with God - is that He stands for us and behind us...and is big enough to take our anger and transform it from a cancerous thought that plagues our mind and rots in our soul to an energy that allows us to rise up from our past and create our future alongside Him.  

 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?  Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?  Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.  When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94: 16-19)

When anger against God's plan {or perceived lack of plan} in your life rises up, don't squish it down inside of yourself under the notion that you can't experience that emotion.  The key in the process is channeling your stress and anger into something productive.  When thoughts like I don't know why this is happening to me or this situation is more than I can handle come into your mind, channel them.  Channel your thoughts into prayer.

Lord, I don't know why this is happening to me, but I know your plan for me is amazing and outside of my wildest dreams.  Help me turn to you, take my heart and make it whole.

Dear GOD this situation is more than I can handle and I'm weak.  Bring me support and consolation and help me to rise out this temptation and struggle to glorify you.

Your anger is not too much for God to handle.  Neither is your personality, joys, experiences, struggles and pain.  Saint Teresa of Avila said, "You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him."

So don't settle for asking for clarity.  Ask for sainthood.  Ask for holiness.  Ask for Divine Assistance to work through what your struggling with and ask Him to transform your life.  Because not only CAN He help you, but He's just waiting, arms open, for you to turn around and run into His arms.  Cast your anxieties on Him.

He has broad shoulders.  

 

 

 

 

 

The Internal Flame

This past weekend, the Christmas season ended with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. What a perfect glimpse into the exploration of the beauty of the sacrament.  Christ Himself was pure of all sin - Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin."  Christ's baptism directs us to the realization that a cleansing of the soul from original sin is necessary for a relationship with God. Baptism is so important, in fact, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the kingdom of God" (1215).  Without Baptism, whether that be of water, blood or desire, the soul is not capable of a relationship with God because the darkness of original sin inhibits a relationship.  Blinded by the nature of sin, the soul cannot see the God who desires so deeply to be intimate with it.

When the light of the baptismal candle is lit, inside the soul, a light begins to flicker.  Gone is the darkness of original sin, and in its stead is the beauty of the inklings of a relationship.  A God who desires to be intimate with who He created.  Galatians 4:3-7 reads:

"So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.  But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."  So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir."

Let the reality of this insane mystery set in : GOD, who made the world you stand on today, who created your lungs to hold the perfect amount of air, who keeps the earth in orbit, with whom the sun could not shine and the entire universe would be unsustainable without His loving presence, calls YOU His son or daughter.

For so long in the history of religion throughout world, forms of divinity and deity were distant, up in the heavens and separated from their creation.  Incas and Mayans feared the wrath of multiple deities in their daily lives.  The Romans and Greeks lived in the constant fear that angering their gods would result in a poor harvest, death, disease and pain.

Yet we call God Father.  If understood in its fullness, we would never be able to get past this phrase when we pray the Our Father because we would be in such a state of awe over the love God has for us.

Parents wait nine months to meet their child.  And believe me, as the oldest of eight children, I know that the nine months of pregnancy can feel like an eternity.  But in comparison to the anticipation that God has for your time on this earth, those nine months are like a speck of dust.  God has been waiting for you for eternity.

David sings of this incredible love when he wrote in Psalm 139: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in a secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before even one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand - when I awake, I am still with you."

What a responsibility that the parents and godparents of this soul take onto their shoulders.  Out of love for this newly baptized soul and the desire to see him or her reach the final destination of Heaven, they are called to shield this little flame against the temptations and trials of the world.  It is not simply a duty that is fulfilled on the day of the baptism - stand in the right place, look here for pictures, hold this candle and don't catch anything on fire.  No - it is a call to battle that does not end until either the soul put into your care passes into the next world and eternity with his maker, or you pass before and begin to intercede and encourage from the other side.

Saints have tapped into the idea of this flame for centuries.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote, "Go forth and set the world on fire," and Saint Catherine of Sienna famously penned, "Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire."

This is not to say that it will always be easy to keep the fire burning within yourself.  In fact, as one matures and finds their dignity and value in Christ, the devil takes special interest in ruining the relationship between the God of the Universe and His beloved children.

This setting of things on fire indicates that your internal flame isn't destined to stay in it's current form though.  Life is not meant to be lived warmed by the small, flickering glow of that baptismal candle.  Instead, with each passing day, the flame should be nurtured and built until it reaches a full blaze, not able to be contained within the soul of it's origin.  When the flame reaches its fullest blast, it bursts out into the world, reaching the hearts of those who come into contact with the soul who is ablaze with love for God.

What a Mountain Hike Taught me about God

In 64 days, 15 hours, 32 minutes and 48 seconds {but who is counting?} Spring Break 2016 will be here.  Up until just last year, Spring Break meant nothing to me but a week to pack in some work hours and enjoy a breath of fresh air from homework that was breathing down my neck.  That all changed in Spring of 2015.  On an absolute chance, a dear friend asked me if I'd like to join her on a hike through Big Bend National Park in Texas, and on an adventurous streak, I said yes. Little did I know what that yes would entail.  Morning prayer at sunrise, dashing down miles of mountain to make it to a cache site, desperation felt in the pouring rain.  Not showering for days, forgetting what I looked like and having no technology to lean on as a crutch for communication.  Honest conversation and blatant struggles that bonded human beings together like nothing I'd ever seen before.  Swinging a backpack onto my back and wondering if I'd ever be able to get up if I sat down one more time.  Countless rosaries and eating an entire half of a summer sausage by myself in one sitting.

I still have yet to eat summer sausage again.  

But through the entire experience, there are significant things that stand out to me as I reflect on last year's trip.

I saw God on that mountain.

Before this trip, I had never felt the absolute desperate, heart-aching need for God.  Yes, I had a relationship with Him that was growing stronger in my college years, but it was very much a relationship of the head and not the heart.  Yet when you are struggling up a mountain path and have fifty pounds of gear on your back pressing you into the mud, prayer comes almost as a second nature.  The conversations that I had with God changed from "Hey God it's me, can you give me something?" to "Dear God help me.  I can't do this without you."  And I can tell you right now - no amount of training could have allowed me to climb that mountain.  The level of endurance that pushed me to the top of the peak and granted me the enjoyment of the view from the rim was something that only God could have done.

I had never felt so alive.

I like to say I'm adventurous.  I try new foods, talk to people I don't know and have traveled all over the world and even different dimensions {okay, that last one is only when I'm reading books but it still counts, right?} But I have never pushed myself physically so far out of my comfort zone as that hiking trip allowed me to.  And the satisfaction of knowing that I {with an incredible help from God and those on the hike with me} conquered something as  large as a hike that lasted almost a week set a fire inside of my heart and soul that has continued to burn, even almost a year later.

I have seen a lot of beautiful places on this earth.  The sunrise in Colorado.  The rushing streets of Washington DC halted for a crowd showing their support of unborn children.  The smell of rain in Seattle, Washington. But never will it compare to the beauty experienced in Big Bend.  It could be because I was tired, coffee-deprived and genuinely searching for the beauty in the little things, but the simplistic beauty of the stars over your head and a warm freeze-dried meal to keep you warm are without exaggeration among the best memories of my life.  And the exhilaration that runs through you when you conquer a goal and stand at the top of a mountain peak and experience Mass on the heights is out-of-this-world.    Truly I have never felt so alive as I did on that mountain, and it easily racks up as my favorite place on this earth.

I conquered fears and demons. Honesty hour - there was a lot of fears and demons in my life that I thought through on those days where we had miles to hike, and rain pouring down our backs.  I was questioning God's plan, wondering what the heck He wanted from me and mulling over things that I had started thinking about long before the hike started.  I was working through the emotions of a dating fast, grappling with fears and trust that God did in fact have a plan for my life.

I opened up with friends about issues going on in my life.  I trusted people that I had just met less than seven days ago with my well-being.  Most importantly, I talked to God more than I had ever done before.

I learned that there is joy in all circumstances.

After the Big Bend trip, I love hearing the verse from Philippians 4:11-13 that reads, " I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength."  There is so much joy to be found in this world.  I'll say it before, I'll say it again .... it's the little things.  It's the beauty of a cactus that blooms in the dessert for the benefit of bringing glory to it's maker.  It's the taste of barbecue freeze-dried chicken that warms you up before you lay your head down for the night.  It's the companionship of saying "Let's pray a rosary" when descending a mountain.  It's waking up from a night of rain and mud and seeing the sunrise out your tent window.  It's talking in British accents to cope and laughing over the most ridiculous things.  It's Mumford and Sons and picking your spirit animal around the campfire.  It's the joy of loving a God and seeing Him in everything.  And realizing His love for you is so great that He shows it to you everywhere you look.

It is not the mountain we conquer...but ourselves. - Sir Edmund Hilary 

My Friends the Saints

saints.jpg

There are countless things that I love about being Catholic.  There have been multiple times when exiting Mass that I cannot get over the love of a God who humbles Himself under the appearance of bread to spend time with me.  An increasing Marian devotion has made me appreciate the beauty of the feminine genius.  And any time that I open up a book written by John Paul II, my heart melts with appreciation for the beauty of the Church. However, recently, I've fallen into a deeper love affair with the Catholic tradition of recognizing Saints in the life of the Church.  In a time of transition in my life, when my community from my college years shifts, and my life begins to take adult turns, the stability in the saints as my dearest friends has been a steady presence in my life this year.

So, because I can't do each one of my friends, the saints, justice - here are some things I have enjoyed particular in my relationships with the saints if you are looking to delve into a friendship you'll never regret.

The saints struggled and strove for the same holiness you are called to.

The saints are not holier-than-thou beings that sit up in Heaven judging you about how your journey to Heaven is going.  Instead, they are very real human beings who, frankly, messed up and struggled too.  There is an incredible beauty of reliability that occurs between the Church militant and the Church triumphant - a sharing of both a struggle and goal.

A shared experience has the unique power to bond two parties together.  Last Spring Break, I went on a Lenten hike through a national park in Texas.  The people who I hiked with had a few things in common with me - we were all college students, Catholic, and the outdoors appealed to us.  Yet after six days together, pouring rain, glorious sunshine and tents that leaked a little more than I preferred, the shared experience of that hike has become a connecting factor between all of us.  In application of our relationships with the saints, each one of them was an imperfect human being with a desire to reach Heaven and His heart.  So although the time that you walked on this earth differs from theirs, or your life stories have great variations, the shared experience of the journey to Heaven connects you in more ways than is possible to know.

There is a saint for ever struggle because every saints was a sinner.

Without exaggeration, there is a saint for every struggle known to man. Saint patronages exist not because the saint had successful conquered all temptations and lived with a soul as clean as snow for the rest of their life, but instead because the saint experienced a struggle with that vice.  Venerable Matt Talbot is not the patron of those who struggle with addictions and alcohol abuse because he had life figured out in those areas.  Rather, we intercede to him because he spent over sixteen years racking up an incredible amount of debt at local bars because of substance abuse, yet was able to delve into the struggle thanks to daily Mass and a devotion to Mary.

My favorites include Saint Jerome, who was introverted and cranky, but people still flocked to him because of his relationship with Christ and knowledge of the faith...so they made him the patron of those who struggle with tempers {like yours truly}.  Or Saint Drogo, patron saint of coffee...although despite lengthy research, I can't quite explain why that patronage exists.

There are saints for every state of life, from single {Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Lucy, Saint Lawrence} to those called to a religious vocation {Saint John of the Cross, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint John Vianney} to those who are called to marriage {Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, Saints Isidore and Maria.}

  You cannot fall in love with someone unless you talk to them.

If the walls of my car could talk, they would tell you some stellar stories.  Those who know me also know that my perfectionism begs me to have conversations out loud in my car before I have them with the person they are intended for.  Yes, I play both parts of the conversation, and yes, I do voice impersonations.  On the negative side of that habit, it becomes incredibly frustrating when those real-life conversations don't play out exactly as I had meticulously planned for them to go.

Yet the relationships that benefit the most from my car conversations are my relationships with the saints.  Having a three hour car ride is no problem because that means bonding time with my Heavenly favorites - Saint Zelie Martin, Saint Maria Goretti and Saint John Paul II and I have had amazingly good heart-to-hearts on the drives back and forth from destinations.

If you think about your relationship with the saints in the same way that you would your relationship with human beings who walk the earth with you, it makes sense that a need for conversation would arise.  Granted, my heart-to-hearts with the Martins are not nearly as conversational as my heart-to-hearts with my dear friends over coffee.  Yet the aspect of praying with and to the saints for intercession concerning their patronage is key to your relationship with them.

Heaven is going to be amazing when you get to spend eternity with those who helped you through the trenches.

These aren't the best four years of your life

     Despite the common misnomer, college is probably not the best four (or perhaps five, six, or even eleven) years of your life.

If your ability to learn, develop, think and process declines automatically after an emblazoned diploma is hung in a glass case, then the reason for college has not been fully identified nor tapped into.

Often, parents pack away possessions of their child and remnants of a childhood into Rubbermaid totes and unpack them into an entirely different world.

Eighteen year olds are transplanted into an environment that is seemingly centered on success and class schedules.

     The new environment of college is one of many springboards to dive deeper into the process of critical thinking, human communication and a process of questioning and determining the truths of life.

However, the college experience is not significant because of classrooms, lectures, paper assignments or group projects.  The experience of college is momentous because it is an environment in which the human experience thrives through a process of questioning, failing and succeeding.

    The human condition is experienced in the context of emotions, communication and shared experiences.

Human beings are collectively part of a beautifully unique species of creatures.

The separation factor between human beings and any other living being that roams the earth is that humans desire to know the answer to one question: “Why?”

A broad range of contexts for that question exist, but the environment that a higher education presents is one that fosters the questioning and answering process.

The college experience offers its participants an invitation to dig deeper into the meaning of particles, phonemes, the interaction of the neurons of the mind and perhaps the meaning of one’s own place on the earth.

College offers a chance to question normalcy and look for new ways to accomplish tasks.  Yet, too often, this proposal is squandered and squelched by an emphasis on perfectionism.  The perfect GPAs are awarded scholarships, the top athletes are lauded as heroes of the colleges and universities that they attend.  All the while, the most important lesson that college offers in the human journey is overlooked and often hidden under the rug of worldly success.  The superlative lesson college offers is the mistakes.  The experience of staying up too late after a night out because a paper is due that reminds college students of their time management faults.  The fingernails bitten down to the quick 

that serve as a road map to the times when the gravity of decisions hit a student like a hammer to his or her chest.

The pile of coffee cups, stained with lipstick, that litter the hallway trashcan because, once again, there were not enough hours in the day.

     Or perhaps the ever-truthful computer history, besieged with trains of lost thought and distraction that stole away the attention of a student.

These are the lessons that college leaves in its trail, the should-haves and could-haves that keep college students up at night and awake during classes.

The extra push that those mistakes fuel, lighting the fire of perseverance past limits and previous expectations of success from others and oneself.

The university experience is a chance for some to boldly go where no one has gone before: inside oneself.  College serves as a map, offering a chance to explore the definition of the human condition and to fall deeper in love with the pursuit of knowledge and answers to the constantly present questions that stack up alongside life experiences.  The practices fashioned by a university education cannot be summed up in the transcript that prints at the desk of a future employer, or the countless social media pictures that will serve as a reminder of the experiences during those short years.  College is significant because it offers an opportunity – and the impact that the opportunity creates is left completely up to the human individual who is given the gift.  

It's Not All Relative

1) The sky is blue.  2 +2 = 4.  Monday comes after Sunday.

2) The sky is green.  2+2 = 7.  Monday comes after Thursday.

Both of the above lines are statements.  One of them is correct. One of them is incorrect.  It's as simple as that.

What if I read the second set of statements and responded, "But, for me, 2+2=7.  It's what I feel is correct.  Based on my levels of knowledge and cultural surroundings, that's true for me."  You'd question my sanity, and rightly so.

I cannot say that 2+2=7 and be right as the person who says 2+2=4 is right.  One of us is wrong.  And that one person being wrong scares us in a society filled with relativism. 

Moral relativism says, "You have your truth and I'll have mine.  What's good and true for you may not be good and true for me.  Ultimately, we're more spiritual than religious."

Call me crazy, but I believe that truth is objective, there is right and wrong in the world, and, as much as it stings, not everyone can be right.

We live in a society where people are afraid to have disagreements.  Maybe the concept of political correctness has harnessed our thoughts, but it seems that no one desires to have a good, intellectual argument anymore.  Moral relativism has made it so that no one is wrong...and this conversation is highly relevant to discussions about religion.

But who am I to judge?  After Pope Francis said this, the world exploded concerning judgement of each other, and sunk into a world view where we can't have opinions concerning people's action anymore.  Let's look at the judgmental issue from another perspective.  I can't claim this, it came from a good friend of mine.  Let's say I don't know your grandma, I've never met her and probably won't.  But I want to know about her, so I ask you to tell me all about her.  And the things you say are awesome - she cooks for everyone when the holidays roll around, she calls you to ask you how you're doing with school, and every time you come back home, she makes sure you have enough groceries.

So, based on what you said about your grandma, I'd say that she is a really good person.  In fact, I'll take the information you gave me, and based on her actions, I will even say that she's fantastic.  But wait - I just judged the heck out of your grandmother.  Why aren't you telling me to stop judging her?

All I did was objectively look at her actions and agreed with them.  The difference of the judgement that Pope Francis implied was the judgement of a person versus the judgement of their actions.  I can't judge where a person's soul is going.  It's above my pay grade (thank goodness - I wouldn't trust myself with that job).  However, I can judge a person's actions and based on an absolute truth, I can disagree or agree with them.

“Relativism poses as humble by saying: “We are not smart enough to know what the truth is—or if there is any universal truth.” It sounds humble. But look carefully at what is happening. It’s like a servant saying: I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master—or if I even have a master. The result is that I don’t have a master and I can be my own master. That is in reality what happens to relativists: In claiming to be too lowly to know the truth, they exalt themselves as supreme arbiter of what they can think and do. This is not humility. This is the essence of pride.” 

- John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

Relativism does not make us, as a societal whole, more accepting.  It actually makes us more passive.  It makes us argument-avoidant and boring.  Yet it is considered trendy to be more in tune to relativism.  And to have a set of moral codes and truths that are correct on an objective stance is just intolerant and unappreciative of the culture.  Yes, our minds are meant to be open....but they are meant to close on the truth.

The Truth. Not your truth or my truth, but the truth.  

“The modern habit of saying "This is my opinion, but I may be wrong" is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying "Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me" – the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.”

- G. K. Chesterton 

We have to stop being lazy - and prideful - and start digging deeper into the morality of situations.  

"We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

- Pope Benedict XVI 

We can't decide what is right for ourselves.  I wish the world we lived in was perfect and everyone did the just thing.  However, I still lock my car doors when I go into the store.  And I carry a self-defense weapon when I leave my campus in the dark.  I can't trust that everyone's personal moral code lines up with mine.  As it turns out, the golden rule isn't quite as universally practiced as we had hoped.  So, darn it Adam and Eve, sin makes that impossible. 

If your God lets you do anything, act any way or say anything you want, your God is you.  And although I am aware that I am a child of God and made in His image, I also am well aware that I will never be God.  So I'll leave things like creating the world, loving everyone unconditionally and determining right and wrong up to him.  Like I said....it's above my pay grade.  

The theory of suffering

Stephen Hawking made it clear what he wanted to accomplish with his life.  “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” 

Thus is born his theory of everything, a desire to understand why things are exactly why they are.  

Why the earth is even here.  

However, Hawking lives a life in which you count yourself so great that the explanation for the beauty of a magnanimous universe cannot be something you can't understand.  To think so highly of yourself that if you cannot understand the theory of existence, it must simply not be a valid theory.


That is the sheer beauty of Christianity.  To exist instead in a worldview that Hebrews 11:1 proclaims: "Faith is confidence, assurance, concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not see."

Things we do not see. Things we don't understand.  

It is a challenge to live in a world corrupted by sin and suffering and point to God.  To experience loss and trust God simultaneously.  To realize that God's blessings can come through the unexpected and painful occurrences in our lives.   

At age 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease.  He was given two years to live.  He has lived an additional 52 years with the disease.  

His life contains a large amount of physical suffering and frustration.  

In the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote about the concept of suffering.  

"In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed.  We are straitened, but are not destitute.  We suffer persecution, but are not forsaken.  We are cast down, but we perish not.  Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our bodies.  For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake: that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.  So then death works in us: but life in you."  

Christ's crucifixion exists outside of the human time construction.  Because of this, we can join in the suffering with Christ on the cross and unite our hardships with Him. 

Saint Rose of Lima lived in the early 1600s in Peru.  Although she only lived to the age of 24, her life contained the beauty of practiced redemptive suffering.  When she was sick as a young woman, she would pray, "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart." 


She knew the power of the cross, and also wrote, "Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven."

That is a bold statement.  That means the cross isn't optional.  Suffering isn't just if you feel like it.  They are the means by which we draw closer to Our Lord and unite our will to His divine plan.  

But without God....suffering doesn't make sense.  In fact, neither does life. 

Jane, Hawking's former wife, wrote of the conflicts that arose from the rejection of even discussing his illness.  With suffering just being a by product of nature, selected to be imposed on random victims, what was the point in discussion?  Jane wrote the Stephen "insisted on a facade of normality, he never talked about illness...It was the illness that had become a barrier of anguish between us."

Without the crucifixion and the picture of redemptive love and suffering, pain has no meaning.  Without God, there is no hope for something greater, for a redemption from the effects of sin in the world and the misuse of the gift of free will.  


 Hawking wrote, "“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.” " 
But instead of simply appreciating the beauty of this earth, the belief in a loving and intelligent creator unlocks the beauty of the foreshadowed.  Of knowing that as beautiful as this earth is, it is nothing in comparison to the life after death.  


Even things as beautiful as love and the creation of life are, they are only a shadow the life and love showered down by a Father who is unconditional love.  

Yet with no end in mind, the day to day life of this world becomes mundane...pointless.  Suffering becomes a bother instead of an opening of the door to suffer with the Lord.

In a rejection of Christ for the convenience of a self theorized science, once can quickly become one's own god.


The Theory of Everything has missed out very important things.  For without God, without the hope, faith and desire for authentic love that is instilled in our restless hearts, there is nothing.  

Christ is everything.  And that's not a a theory.  
  

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Satisfaction

Be Satisfied with Me – Saint Anthony of Padua
Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.
But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me.
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with me alone.
Discovering that only in me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you.
You just keep watching me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.
Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry
Don’t look around at things others have gotten
Or that I have given them
Don’t look around at the things you think you want,
Just keep looking off and away up to me,
Or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love
Far more wonderful than you could dream of.
You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,
I am working even at this moment
To have both of you ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with me.