Ordinary Times.

This picture basically has nothing to do with anything. Other than the fact that delicious donuts are absolutely an ordinary grace.

This picture basically has nothing to do with anything. Other than the fact that delicious donuts are absolutely an ordinary grace.

Well, we made it. Through the holidays/new year/end of the Christmas season. And where does that leave us? Plopped right in the middle of January (also known as the month that never ends . . .), and at the start of Ordinary Time.

Ordinary. I used to hate that word – I feared it, really. After all, what good can come from something that is merely ordinary? Shouldn’t I be striving towards the extraordinary instead of “settling” for the ordinary?

The reality is that just like most of the Church’s liturgical season is composed of ordinary time, most of our lives are filled with the ordinary. Sure there are the ups and the downs, things that warrant celebrations and sorrow – but most of it falls into the category of “ordinary”.

I have started to get in the habit of recounting my day as I brush my teeth at night (I brush my teeth in the morning, too. Don’t worry!!). As I am standing there thinking about the day, I try to remember three things that I am grateful for and three things that I could have done better. (For those of you wondering, this is what we call the examination of conscience for those that have short attention spans). During this time, I am constantly amazed at the things that stick out to me from the day, most of which are “ordinary”.

I had someone tell me last week that this time in my life isn’t necessarily hard (it’s actually pretty simple), but it is taxing. I am being called in a unique way during this time to give of myself in really ordinary ways. And although I know that it is all (please God) for the good of the Church and the Kingdom, it is hard to not think that everything is going unnoticed. However, when I really take a step back, I have been humbled time and time again when I have seen how God has so graciously given me extraordinary grace to power through the ordinary.

I’m comforted in knowing that our Blessed Lord – who certainly could have done anything that He wanted – spent most of His life (30 of the 33 years) leading a sort of ordinary life. Those 30 years that Jesus spent were rather ordinary – but what followed was absolutely extraordinary. And that’s just it – Jesus can only do really extraordinary things through us if we are faithful in the ordinary.

When I’m really honest with myself, the ordinary things that I have been able to experience – and really appreciate! – are some of the most beautiful. Kind emails from highschoolers thanking me for what I am doing, quick phone calls catching up with friends, the privilege of seeing Catholic family life lived out – all these ordinary things have filled my heart in an extraordinary way.

So I’m learning to not be so afraid of the ordinary. After all, this ordinary time – where so much of the Church year is lived out – provides such a privileged chance to see God in the details. The joy that is found in recounting the ordinary moments of each day is a breath of fresh air compared to a world that tells us we need to constantly be moving on to bigger and better things. And mostly, I’m grateful for a God that continually presents Himself in the extraordinary, yes, but also in the ordinary.

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On Seeking.

As always, thanks to Fr. Bradley for the picture!

                                                         As always, thanks to Fr. Bradley for the picture!

This time of year – especially the detox from the holidays – always seems to bring about a lot of emotions for me. (Those that know me are laughing, since I’m a prreettyyyyy emotional person). Anyways!

There just seems to be no shortage of feelings – anticipation during Advent, overwhelmed at the thought of God becoming Man, joy of being with family, stress that can the holidays bring, gratitude for all that is good, and humility for where we seem to always fall short.

As I found myself over these past few weeks jumping from one place to another St. Louis – Pittsburgh – Minnesota – St. Louis – Nashville – and finnaallyyyyyy St. Louis, I found myself thinking a lot about these feelings. The same feelings that make us human, yet make us weary of sharing our humanity with others. I don’t know if that’s universally true, but I know it’s true for me. It is when I’m most overwhelmed – with whatever the emotion is – that I have the hardest time running to others, and most problematically to God.

It’s no coincidence that all these thoughts are culminating on this day – January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. On the day where the Church celebrates (can I still say that if it was technically celebrated this past Sunday? Anyone?), I’m reminded that the only thing that matters is that I am following that star.

When I was in Nashville, I had the privilege of stopping over at the FOCUS (an awesome national organization that seeks to spread the Gospel on college campuses) conference. This conference – which is appropriately called “SEEK” consisted of almost 10,000 college students doing exactly what the wisemen did 2000 years ago – dropping everything and following the Lord at all costs.

As I had the privilege of seeing the joy on the faces of all who SEEK, I found myself that day so in awe – of a God that is so big and a Church that is so wide. I kid you not, I ran into SIXTEEN people that day that I did not expect to see. Friends from high school, college, random trips, and friends of friends. It was absurd moment after absurd moment of God reminding me that we are not alone in this journey of seeking the one who is Love.

Unfortunately, in day to day life, it often feels like I am clawing, frantically grabbing towards God rather than fearlessly seeking after Him with the knowledge that others are doing the same. And you know what? That’s okay. When things seem hard, when the emotions are harder, there is just one thing that matters. That we still seek Him. That we seek Him in the good, the bad, the hard, the emotional. That we seek Him because we know that He is Love – that we seek Him because the star is always shining us, and the darkness will not be overcome.

Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday – birthdays always hold a new promise. The promise of a new year, clean slate, another chance to get it right. But my hope is that this year will hold joy in the journey, and confidence in the knowledge that the path has been cleared before me. After all, wise men (and women!) still seek Him.

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A Thrill of Hope.

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                                                                                 We also ran into Elsa!

This past weekend, I found myself at the St. Louis Zoo with my friends exploring the Zoo lights. Which are exactly what it sounds like. Lights around the zoo. Anyways! I found myself in one of those ridiculously good moods – the kind where you just can’t help but skip/dance/sing out loud (and obtain odd looks from passerby). Why? Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Yes. Because I was surrounded by good friends? Yes. Because of the promise of a rowdy game of Spot It (have you played? So fun!)? Yes.

But the real reason was because my heart was just so full – full of the promise of Christmas, the promise of the Incarnation, but most importantly – the promise of the “thrill of hope”.

My favorite line, in any Christmas song (particularly when Michael Buble sings it) is “a thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices”.

A thrill of hope in the midst of a pile of work that doesn’t seem like it will ever. Get. Done.

A thrill of hope that brings critical peace in light of everything we hear about our country and world.

A thrill of hope which comforts the lonely, clothes the naked, and feeds the hungry.

A thrill of hope Who shows that God became man so that we may have life, and have it to the full.

The problem with Christmas – as our world promotes it – is that it is just a day on a calendar, a season in a store, an excuse to eat Christmas cookies for breakfast (did that today. Guilty). The reality of Christmas is that it is so much more than that.

The reality of Christmas is that between Christmas carols, cookies, and eggnog, we must rejoice.

Rejoice in the midst of the work, because it means that God intends for our work to bring Him glory.

Rejoice in the knowledge that despite the turmoil in our country and world, God became man so man may know that suffering has a place and that it was redeemed by the cross.

Rejoice in the chance to comfort the lonely, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry because it means that He allows us to share in His mission.

And rejoice in the knowledge that there is abundant life to be found in a life lived for Christ.

So although I won’t spend all my time in these coming days dancing while passing through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest and through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, I am trying to be a little bit more intentional about rejoicing – and thanking God for the promise of this thrill of hope.

And yes, I’m thanking Him for this – and this, too. 😉

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Sovereign.

It's easy to remember how big God is with a place as beautiful as this to pray in.

It’s easy to remember how big God is with a place as beautiful as this to pray in.

On every level of my life, it feels like there have been a lot of “big” things happening these past several months. Of course, there are the obvious: graduating college, moving to a new city, starting a new program, building a new community, etc. But in spite of all these external things, it feels like the biggest thing that has happened to me has been in realizing one simple fact: He. Is. Sovereign.

This past Sunday, on the feast of Christ the King, the priest said in the homily: “At the end of your life, you will stand before the King of the Universe, and He will ask you: Who has been the Lord of your life?” That very question raced through my mind as I left the Church, and solidified inside of me what I’ve been growing to realize. I realized that if He was Lord of my life, it necessitated that I open my eyes to His sovereignty at all times of my life.

He is sovereign on the days when I feel like I have nnooooo idea what the heck I am doing with this new job, yet I leave youth group reminded of the very real way that He is working in the lives of these beautiful highschoolers.

He is sovereign when I celebrate my first friendsgiving with friends here late into the night – people who I can’t believe I have the remarkable privilege of calling friends.

He is sovereign when I get on my knees to pray before mass and the only prayer I can utter is a tearful glance at the crucifix wondering what will be next.

He is sovereign in the relationships, phone calls/text messages, and days out in the country that come jjuusstttttt at the right time.

He is sovereign when amidst the chaos of my life – and of the world – He sends reminders of His presence.

This idea of the reality of God’s sovereignty is not just some novel idea that I have come to know these past few months. It is the promise of the life of faith, and the fulfillment of scripture that says “I will remain with you always, even until the end of the age.” It is the promise of the Gospel of John that says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. And most importantly, it is the reality of the incarnation – of God becoming man.

What this truth has required of me, is the same that it requires of all of us . . . The knowledge that in whatever life throws at me: the good, the struggles, the joys, and the sorrows, we must cling to the hope that is Jesus, and the promise that is a life of faith.

Everything I have learned, experienced, and felt (especially!!) these last several months has further convicted me of the necessity of opening my eyes to how sovereign He is, and that at every moment of every day He seeks to share the joy found in a life lived for Him.

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Incomprehensible.

A (not really related) picture from said weekend trip.

A (not really related) picture from said weekend trip.

I can remember it clear as day – junior year of college. Philosophy of Religion class. Our professor (who happens to be probabbllyyyy the most brilliant person I know) said something along the lines of “I have come to know the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ, and I can’t pretend that doesn’t make a difference.”

I nodded my head in agreement, but spent the next several years not exactly knowing what that meant? And although I spent quite a while trying to grasp what he meant, I knew that I wanted to mean it, too – I knew that I wanted the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ to make a difference in my own life.

This past week, I had the chance to visit two of my dearest friends in seminary. And over the course of those few days, someone asked me why I decided to take this job and move to St. Louis. And although my response was probably somewhere along the lines of “I thought it was God’s will for my life and seemed like an amazing opportunity”, what I really mean is that the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ has made a difference.

The sheer unlikeliness of this all – starting a new job in a new city, working full time for the Church, the fact that my life is being used for the furthering of the Gospel – astounds me with joy and gratitude. Because I have come to know the incomprehensible love of the living God, the choice was clear – I had to follow Him.

Incomprehensible is hard. Hard because there are days where God doesn’t feel close. Hard because the world tells us that a life of faith isn’t worth it, and certainly tells us that following a God that we can’t see is silly. Hard because our own sin and selfishness can cause us to doubt if God really loves us.

But you know what? Hard is also good. Accepting the “hard” reality that Jesus Christ – the living God – loves us, came to earth to form a relationship with us, died for us, and rose again so we may live with Him forever may be incomprehensible, but it is also life-giving. And most of the times, at least in my own life, it has been easier to pretend like the incomprehensible love of Jesus doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s all too easy to ignore what is right in front of us because we think we know better.

What I have found by admitting that I don’t know better – and in laying down all my fears about the future at the foot of that incomprehensible Love is that I have never been happier. These past several months, although they have had their fair share of difficulties, have been sustained by the promise that the incomprehensible love continues to make a difference. Jesus Christ lives – I know this. He lives so clearly in my life, in the lives of those I love, the teens I work with and the Church I serve. The love makes a difference because even though He died some 2000 years ago, He came that we may have life now.

And only in acknowledging this – by admitting to ourselves and others that the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ has made a difference – will we come to know incomprehensible joy.

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Cheese Grater Theology

grated cheese

Side note: I’m back! Between being sick, family in town, running a race, and traveling to give a few talks, things have been cray cray. If you didn’t notice I was gone, pretend like I never said anything. 

This past Saturday, I found myself standing over my sink, furiously grating a hhuuggeeeee block of cheese to use in some homemade mac & cheese. “This will be easy” I thought, “There is no way it could possibly take more than 90 seconds to grate a 16 oz block of cheese with a small (really small!!) grater”.

Needless to say, I was frustrated when after a solid twenty minutes, I was stillllll grating the cheese (with a really sore hand, I might add). And to make it worse, because I was rushing, I was not performing (bet you have never heard someone use the word perform when talking about grating cheese) as effectively or efficiently as possible.

It wasn’t until I took a step back, cleaned out the grater, re-evaluated what I needed to do (break the cheese into smaller chunks), that I could finish with confidence. Okay. I realize that I just talked about grating cheese for three paragraphs. Sorry. But. But! The point is this: as much as I think that I know what I’m doing, or how precisely to do it, I’m realizing more and more the need to take a step back, clean up shop, and reassess things.

In the last 3.5 months, I have moved to a new city, started a new job, kicked off a new program, made new friends, traveled to visit family, go to weddings, and give talks. It has been a whirlwind. And it’s about time that I take a step back and clean out the proverbial cheese grater (weird analogy. I know. I’m so sorry). There has been a lot of new things, a lot of uncertainty, but even more grace (thank you, Jesus, for grace).

For me, it is always just when I’m starting to feel like things aren’t working/things are most out of control/I couldn’t possibly grate all the cheese that I get on my knees and ask (. . . scream at . . .) God wondering how I got into all this craziness in the first place. None of it is bad. In fact, it’s all pretty darn good, but it can be hard to look around with gratitude when we feel like there is so much more that needs to be done.

I’m learning that it really comes down to consistent commitment to the present moment. The to-do list will always be there, but the to-do list means nothing if the important things aren’t done. Practically this means putting first things first – if I’m going to be busy, I should be busy with what is most important. And on the days when I am least sure what I am doing, I need to be most sure that I’m asking the Lord what He wants me to do.

There is abundant life to be found in even the most mundane – like the cheese grating. In the moments where I am most fed up, it is the most likely that after a little evaluating (and a lot of prayer!!) I can move forward with clarity. The promise of scripture remains true for all of us – He will remain with us always, but amongst the clutter and craziness of life, we must stop and ask Him where we’re going. It is there where we will find joy. For those of you that were wondering, yes I did (finally!!) finish grating all the cheese. And that homemade mac & cheese? Delish.

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