Learning to be Little.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Photo by Mecedes Kallo on Unsplash

You'd think that someone who tops out at all of five feet and two inches would have a pretty decent handle on being little.

Alas, I am only just beginning to learn what littleness entails.

I find that I can sometimes be a bit Hermione Granger-y about the spiritual life. I immerse myself in spiritual reading by renowned saints, listen to a lot of Catholic Podcasts, and spend an hour in Adoration every week. That last in particular has me envisioning God chuckling, as I bring a slew of different things to do during my weekly Holy Hour -- Bible, journal, Spotify worship playlist, devotional, spiritual reading, Rosary, papal encyclicals...

It's more than any reasonable person could seek to do in an hour, but, you know, I want to do it right. I want to pray the most deeply. I want that intimate union with God. I want to be awash in His grace.

...And so I need to be prepared with backup options in case the psalm I choose to meditate on that day falls flat, or maybe my favorite Audrey Assad jam isn't speaking to me the way it usually does (I actually don't, but persistence in prayer is a topic for another day).

The point is that I get caught up in trying so hard to be holy. Self-help junkie and perfectionist that I am, I try to get there on my own.

Instead of letting God work gently, quietly, slowly in me.

I think that maybe if I just learn enough about the faith, if I master all the steps... someday I'll be perfect.

My spiritual director, Sister Hope, shook her head and staved off a smile when I told her this last night. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's not how it works."

No? I waited eagerly for her to tell me what the real secret was, then. 

"We forget that when we pray," she said, placing a hand over her heart, "God does the work."

It sounded so good, the way she said it. And I imagine it would be freeing to take some of that pressure off of myself -- to say to God, "Okay, Lord, I'll just promise to show up. You do the heavylifting!"

I know He wants to.

But then, what exactly does it mean to just "show up"?

Sister Hope had an answer for that, too, drawn from the wisdom of St. Thérèse and her little way:

"Just be who you are before the Father, in your littleness."

I've been mulling this over since our meeting last night, and here's a working set of guidelines I've assembled for "becoming little" and "being who I am before God" -- because old habits (and list-makers and step followers) die hard, apparently:

Be broken. Let God mend the cracks with His abundant mercy. 
Be bold.
Be honest.
Be unashamed. 
Practice humility, remembering in gratitude the God who freely created us out of His own generous, life-giving heart.
Trust that God is doing the hard work of building something better with every brick of your heavily-laden heart that you surrender to Him.

And then, finally, rest in His love for you -- right now, exactly as you are.

You are enough, and You are loved.

Thoughts of a Restless, Desiring Heart.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"In all my desirings, I was desiring you."

I've been sitting with this quote from St. Augustine this morning. Originally, I had planned on sharing the photo above on Instagram with some carefully articulated caption about having a pilgrim's heart and yearning for God in the midst of the day-to-day, even at the times when I'm not sure or even completely unaware that that's what I'm doing.  It would be perceived as thoughtful and wise, get a couple dozen likes, and I'd spend the rest of the day restlessly checking Instagram every ten minutes to see, not necessarily an honest measure of how many lives I'd really touched, but at least a solid indicator of how many people had taken a half second to double-tap my post while mindlessly scrolling through the other updates in their feeds.

Oof. Sometimes I'm struck by just how much I desire to be seen, known, and loved, even in the smallest of ways. And nothing brings that to the forefront of my consciousness quite like planning an Instagram post. In thinking of how I wanted to share St. Augustine's insight with my hundreds of followers, I had become the person who most needed to hear my own words.

So, to the blog I went, thinking of all of the things I am desiring at this moment in time: a successful career doing what I love, a romantic relationship, more money, awards, accolades... basically, all of those things which, if I had them, would (I'm convinced) finally persuade me I'm enough. That I'm seen, known, and loved. That I matter in this world. 

The thing is, I'm already seen, known, and loved, by the God who knew me from all eternity. The earthly things which I desire, which propel so many of the decisions I make and drive the deepest longings of my heart, are decidedly human ways of seeking Him whom I was made for, in what feels most accessible to me on this worldly plane.

That's not always a bad thing! There is so much goodness in this world, and I believe God delights in us noticing it; he put all that goodness here for our benefit, after all! And the things we perceive as good and worthy of love are only so because they reflect something of His goodness and beauty and love.

And that deepest longing of my heart -- to be seen, known, and loved -- is there because God Himself wants to fill it. But not, ultimately, in any of the ways I restlessly search for it.

And so I am always, always -- at the root of all else -- simply searching for God. As Pope St. John Paul II famously said in one of his World Youth Day audiences:

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; 
He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; 
He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; 
it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; 
it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; 
it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

The truth is, I do very much have a pilgrim's heart. And while I wait to be reunited with God someday, I am committed to picking up the breadcrumbs of His presence that He drops everywhere I look. I am committed to contemplating my desires and what they have to teach me about how I'm desiring God in each new moment, most of all. 

Wild Miracle, Beautiful Life.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Photo by Brett Ritchie on Unsplash

Today, I am 26.

I spent a few hours this morning and early in the afternoon at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with my older sister Lizzy. (Side note: by 1pm, I really needed a nap because that is my unabashed reality as a true grown-up now. Another side note: prior to our museum trip, we completed the Hot Chocolate 5k on the promise of copious amounts of chocolate at the finish, because my inner child is still very much alive.)

Anyway, to the point...

The Museum has an impressive prehistoric exhibit, where I learned (or maybe, was reminded?) that Earth is in fact some 4 1/2 BILLION years old. And, if I'm correctly remembering the scales used, humans have existed for the equivalent of something like the last four days in December on a 12-month calendar, or the last fifteen minutes of a 24-hour day.

Whoa. How's that for putting my birthday -- my little and blessed lifetime -- in perspective?

It gets even crazier when I think about it this way:

Today I celebrate 26 years on planet Earth. 26 years of learning to love others, learning to love the world, and letting other people love me...

...And today I also celebrate an eternity of having existed in the mind of God.

Because in all those 4 1/2 billion other years (and before then, even, because God is outside of time and has always been and always will be and just because the earth wasn't around until 4 1/2 billion years ago doesn't mean other planets and celestial bodies weren't)?

God knew me still. He chose me. And He was waiting, deliberately, to send me into this time and place in history, planning to give me to my family and friends and all of the other lives I interact with daily.

This truth leaves me truly breathless in wonder, awe, and gratitude when I let it fill my consciousness and spirit.

It is a humbling reality, that each of us could be individually wanted in this way.

But we are. I am. You are.

Thanks for giving me the greatest gift I could have asked for, God, today and every day.

My Words for Year 26

Friday, October 5, 2018

Photo by Lorene Farrugia on Unsplash

I’ve noticed it’s a common practice among bloggers and podcasters these days to select a single word to focus on at the start of the new year, or at the beginning of a new season of life. I’m guessing it’s easier to think about focusing on a single word rather than a laundry list of to-do’s, though for the indecisive among us (hi), there’s a lot of pressure associated with picking the right one. I want to be so many things, I think to myself. Where do I start?

With my 26th birthday approaching this Sunday, I’ve been praying a lot recently about the word I should build my life around this year. I’ve often seen fellow Catholic bloggers write about how God just “speaks” to them in prayer, laying such distinct and surprising thoughts on their hearts that they know they can’t have sprouted from within themselves. So I’ve been meditating with this question in Adoration in recent weeks, hoping that God might take the initiative and plant a definitive guidepost for these next twelve months in my soul.

But of course, God doesn’t work that way. I know this. As someone who’s taken a few professional detours on her way to building a career that she’s passionate about, and a graduate student who still, in some sense, feels she is waiting for her life to begin (cue the Tangled soundtrack), I know that God doesn’t tell me what to do.

It’s rather annoying at times, to say the very least.

Which brings me back to my recent prayer, and my thoughts about everything that’s coming up in the next year -- everything I need this one word to support for me.

I think I’ve got my life more or less figured out in the short-term: Graduate from my MA program in literature. Start school for my PhD next fall. Or teach English at the high school or middle school level in the Catholic Diocese of Denver.

I have a plan, though it’s spiced with uncertainty. Will I be admitted to PhD programs? If so, how do I pick? Will I be accepted to the one I most want to be in? How exactly do I apply for jobs in the Diocese? What if they’re not hiring English teachers, or the timing is not right for some other reason?

And of course, that doesn’t include the most terrifying question of all:

What if none of my plans work out?

I find that sometimes I approach my conversations with the Lord as I do most others: I plan out what I am going to say before the other finishes speaking. See, I have these hopes and dreams for my life, and although the Lord encourages me to bring these to Him, and it’s a practice in holiness, I believe, to place these in His care, I have to work on letting go just a little bit. I have to work on letting Him speak, and on taking the time to thoughtfully respond.

On listening to the nudges that will carry me through, or lead me down a different path than what I have in mind.

On developing sensitivity to the inner movements of my soul, the quiet spaces where God speaks loudest.

And then surrendering, day by day, with trust and confidence, just a bit more of myself to His will.

I realize this is a tall order. Idealistic, you might say. And it makes me uncomfortable, because it doesn’t come with quantifiable methods of ensuring my success. In fact, “listen and surrender” sounds like exactly the same sort of vague resolution most would frown upon, because, without any exterior metrics for improvement, it seems the sort of thing one would easily give up on.

I like instant gratification. I like chasing measurable perfection. And I am half afraid that if I focus on these two words -- listen and surrender -- I’ll reach 27 wondering if I actually did either of those things.

I want to reach 27 having crossed lots of new things off my bucket list, having chased my dreams, being able to “take stock”, so to speak, of what I’ve done to grow more into “me”, and to become the person I’m created to be.

I hear God calling me to surrender that, too. He works slowly, and He doesn’t waste anything. And if I’m able to spend the next year growing closer to him -- listening and surrendering -- then I’ll get to 27 being who He wants me to be.



Bring it on, 26.