Sunday, November 25, 2012

Still Here

I slipped in to church four minutes before it started and found a comforting spot between my parents and my brothers. I knelt down to pray for a moment, my head throbbing from one of the frequent headaches I seem to get lately. Tension was in my heart, too, as I fought against thoughts and emotions that threatened to overtake me--many of them planted there by the Evil One, no doubt.

Why am I here? Where is God in all of this and what is His plan? Am I doing something wrong?

Unanswerable questions are the worst, but they seem to be the ones that surface when we're in pain. In a brief moment, I see the past few years...a broken engagement, polycystic ovarian syndrome, major surgery across the country. The fight for joy, for growth, for healing in so many areas. The beauty that came from ashes and pain. Renewed faith. Falling in love again. Walking on stable ground once again...yes, even dancing.

Only to find out the surgery didn't work. That the dream-come-true of this man I loved was simply that--a dream. The fight for joy, for hope, begins again...but I'm battle weary.

And if I'm going to be real...a little angry sometimes.

I don't want to be. But I feel it every once in a while, in a little corner of my heart. Hurt. Doubt. Questioning. And a hint of anger. Yet I know that emotions are just feelings. It's what I chose to do with them. So I keep praying--even if I just sit there sometimes. And I keep choosing trust--hoping the feelings of joy and hope will come back in time. That He will be faithful once again. I choose to come to church tonight.

I kneel there, with all these thoughts and emotions swirling in the few minutes before Mass starts.

And I tell Him, with an odd mix of defiance and pleading, that after all of this...

"I'm still here, God."

I want Him to know. The effort it takes to follow Him some days. I want Him to remind me that it's worth it.

And then I hear His voice in my heart, loud and clear. His response melts away my stubbornness, my loneliness, my doubt. It's exactly what my heart was needing--begging--to hear, though I didn't know it until then.

"So am I."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday: 7 Quick Takes [Take Three]

I'm exhausted. Fifty more minutes and it won't even be Friday anymore. Why am I even bothering to do these 7 Quick Takes? Maybe I just need to feel community here we go...I'll be there soon, bed.

I was called in to work on Monday. It was okay, though. Distraction is good right now. When I arrived home, I got a text message from my roommate. This is what it said: Hi :) I'm still in bed. Got a little sick last night while at work. Think it was a quick bug though! I'll be getting up soon to take a shower. No joke (but it totally cracked me up that she was texting me a room away!). Even the smiley face. So we continued to text each other until I brought her back a tray with hot tea and yummy feel-better snacks. I love taking care of people. I think that's why I'm a nurse. :)
Speaking of tea, I'm getting on a craze lately. I drink it in the mornings during my devotion time...I like to have a mug of Sleepytime before I go to bed...and sometimes I like it if I'm home during the day with an afternoon snack. This is my favorite tea ever (don't mind my favorite mug ever--it got a little jealous so I put it in the picture, too. Pier 1 has the cutest mugs):
Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea...mmmm

A. and I painted our bathroom this week. (again, need distractions and purpose right now!) It looks so great. Much cleaner and whiter. The only downside--now the bathtub and sink look dirty because they're not as white!
A horrible picture of me, but I leave it for your amusment. Please focus on the upper right hand corner...where you can see the paint colors rather than me. (Really--who looks good when they're painting??)


I've been singing this week, which is incredibly healing and encouraging. I really haven't felt like smiling or laughing, much less singing. So it was a sweet moment when I realized in the car I was not only singing along with the P&W song but was even tapping my (non-gas-pedal) foot with the beat. My brothers are home from college for the holiday weekend and they tend to just burst into song randomly. Kind of like a real-life musical. Or a flash mob. It makes me happy to be around them and I find myself singing too. Thank you, Lord.
Little brothers

Thanksgiving itself was beautiful along with a handful of heartache (okay, let's be real. more than a handful) that I'm not with P. and his family this weekend. As for my family, only my immediate family gets together, but we're all pretty close so we have a great time together--my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my two precious nephews, my twin brothers, and their friend from college. Not only did the gifts of family and food make me thankful...but also the deeper blessings like salvation, mercy, grace. The ones that can't ever be taken away no matter what comes or who leaves.
My nephew with my *ahem* fruit turkey. What would we do without Pinterest?

The breakup with P. continues to overwhelm me in ways I can't begin to share on here and not sure I even want to. Maybe if I were one-on-one with you at a coffee shop, but here I feel it wouldn't serve much purpose for either one of us. Please just send up a prayer for me. And for him. That God will use this time to refine us and make us more like Him. That if He wants us together, He'll work in P.'s heart. And if He doesn't...that He'll work in mine. Seems so easy. Feels so painful.


That being said, let's end with grace. "Grace isn't something we say before a meal. It's a way of life." LOVE that quote. God continues to show me His face and His comfort and to send me grace through the people in my life right now. My brother's 'I love you' on the phone. My friend V.'s response when I sent an 'I need you' text. ("What kind of ice cream do you want me to bring?" she replied. Love that girl. And ice cream.) My friend C. going out to lunch with me today. Two kind comments from blogger E. My coworkers telling me it's okay to not be okay right now. And many, many more. Thank you, friends. Thank you. This all means so much to me. Even if I don't say's probably because there's a lump in my throat and tears I'm holding back.

Disclaimer: I know my heartache is my own. And that so many others carry heavier burdens. I don't mean for my posts to sound self-absorbed. My own heartache forces me to slow down and see others' needs and burdens more clearly and gives me a desire to alleviate their pain, too. I trust in a good God and I believe He cares about every single heartache...yours and mine. Let's lift each other up in prayer and love.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

We Still Give Thanks

Can I just say 'amazing grace?' His grace is so truly sufficient. Though my heart is still broken and it's painful to be apart from him and his family this holiday...

I'm still thankful today. Joy is still in my heart. And it's because of this God and His grace...manifested through the blessings of family, friends, and His presence in the Eucharist at Mass this morning.

Eucharist. eucharisteo. My One Thousand Gifts friends know this word well. (If you haven't read Ann Voskamp's book, please do. It will change you in a beautiful way.) Grace. Joy. Thanksgiving. All within this one word. eucharisteo. And all from this one God we serve.

I braved the grocery store once again yesterday for a few last-minute items. I saw R., my dear friend who is losing her husband slowly to dementia. I heard someone else say the word 'diagnosis' as I passed by and caught a glimpse of the tension etched in his face. I saw the loneliness, stress, and pain that so often color the holidays along with the fun and excitement. I was reminded that everyone carries unique burdens in addition to unique joys.

Today there are empty tables in so many places. Tables without enough food. Tables missing loved ones. Tables with broken hearts and brave hearts, hearts that choose thankfulness for the have's despite the struggle with the have-not's. If your table is lacking something or someone today, know that you are on my mind and in my heart. And my deepest prayer is that He sends you grace and comfort to know that you are not alone. That you are loved. That He sees and He knows and He cares. That you have hope.

My dad said this morning that he is most thankful for grace and forgiveness. How beautiful. Those gifts from God can never, ever be taken away. Just like His steadfast love.

Are you ready for the Bible verse of the day from my smartphone app today?

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast loves endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever..."
-Psalm 136:1-3
That word just keeps showing up. I'm thankful.
And I thank you for being in my life. For your comments, for your own inspiring blogs, for your friendship. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Our assurance is not based upon our ability to conjure up some special feeling. Rather, it is built upon a confident assurance in the faithfulness of God. We focus on His trustworthiness and especially on His steadfast love."
-Richard J. Foster
Quote from this beautiful book my sister-friends K. and K. gave me last week

Friday, November 16, 2012

Quick Takes-- Take Two

It's obviously been a hugely emotional week for me, but I'm feeling pretty stable tonight so we're going to avoid any negative thoughts in our quick takes, right, Laura?...
I went grocery shopping last Tuesday. I detest grocery shopping this time of year. It's just so commercialized and materialistic, it drives me crazy. (so much for nixing the negative thoughts...) It didn't help my hurting heart either. BUT (positive thought coming...wait for it...) the checkout lady was wonderful. My heavy heart had me pitifully close to tears the whole trip, but this sweet woman was so kind and patient and genuinely friendly. It sounds overly simple, but it can mean so much when someone is nice to you when you're hurting, you know? It really makes me want to be more careful about cultivating a kind and gentle attitude towards just never know what someone is going through.

My girlfriends. I love them. They are truly my second family and I'm incredibly grateful for them. What a gift they have been this week. I sent out an email to my share group and other close girls and asked for their prayers about the breakup with P. and that they not call or try to get together for awhile because I needed some time alone instead of answering questions over and over, even though well-meaning and loving. One friend called five minutes after I sent the email because she simply read the first line of the email and didn't get any further before picking up the phone to support me. Two of them knocked on my door one evening with a gift basket of sweet goodies they put together and the reassurance that I "didn't have to say anything."  Another dropped off three different Psalms to pray and said she didn't need to know the details. My sister came and helped me clean and brought me a bag of thoughtfulness. And the rest of them sent texts and emails of love and prayer and support. Even you sweet online bloggie friends. My heart is full of humble gratitude. I'm just overwhelmed by you. And I want to be like you. You godly, grace-filled women who remind me what Christ is like. You are my Mark Chapter 2 friends...carrying me on my mat to the Healer.
The Pastoral Council of my parish met Tuesday night. I was in charge of gathering info and presenting on an Outreach Committee we are envisioning. I tidied my emotions for the evening and was able to focus on the meeting and even enjoy it. I like this behind-the-scenes of our parish and hearing the group's thoughts and visions on both how to be Christ to the people and minister to their needs as well as how to bring them closer to Christ Himself. It doesn't matter what we do if it's not leading them closer to Him.
The crisis pregnancy center asked me to consider a bigger role than I expected. I'm still praying about it and spoke with the director of nursing at my current job today to see if it could all be worked out. I feel God's hand in it, yet I'm also okay to let it unfold, one step at a time, and let Him work out the details...because there are a lot of details to work out. Still, it's crazy to see how He's already led me through so many steps to get to this spot. One thing's for sure--the whole experience has already made such an impact on me. And I love love love the director of the CPC. It would be such a blessing to work under her. Maybe she would rub off a little on me...
We had our second and final night of the Prelude to Advent drama on Wednesday. What a beautiful, soul-stirring presentation. Loved the music and the reflections. Powerful reminders of the gift of the Incarnation. Of Immanuel. Of hope. One of my favorite moments was the end when we sang "O Come O Come Emmanuel" a capella carrying candles in a dark church. We walked to the beat of the song and ended the song holding our candles, quietly and still, on the balcony and up the stairs on both sides of the church. The guests left in a holy, hushed, candle-lit silence. Beautiful.
NCIS and RCIA. (They have nothing to do with each other except that they're both abbreviations. I'm trying to get a two-for-one here.) I've watched about 9 episodes of NCIS this week. Don't judge me. It really helps. I always thought that cop shows were all the same. Not so. I'm hooked on this one with its endearing characters and its lack of all the junk (i.e. immorality) the other ones seem to have. RCIA class last night was great. We went through the parts of the Mass and the beauty, Scripture, and holy mystery embedded within it. I'm really proud of J. and his commitment to learning and seeking. We're all beginning to build community there with each other. Not so great part: our icebreaker question at the beginning was to share how was our, man. The last question I felt like answering. Grace. Humility.

Miss him. Badly. Like miss-him-so-badly-I-can't-breathe-sometimes. I sat in the chapel on my lunch break for the third day in a row. So thankful for that chapel and the time with Jesus in the middle of my day. I don't always feel the grace right away, and I'm not going to say I don't struggle with questions and knowing His ways and thoughts...but I choose to trust the Lord's promises (choosing that over and over, day after day). And I'm certain He is the Way Himself and I can't get through this or grow through this without Him. "When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart." Yes. Yes. Yes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"...and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns--and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song."

-Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here's my life...broken heart and all...again

God I'm crying out tonight
'Cause I've given You my life
But I'm tired and I'm missing what's behind
So once more

Here's my life.

Even when the tears are falling
When I find I fear the calling
You remind me
Words You've spoken over my life
Promises I've yet to see
You comfort me
-"Here's My Life," BarlowGirl
I could say that having to perform in the Advent drama right after P. broke up with me gave me a welcome distraction from my emotions...
But the reality? The tears that flowed down my face during the drama were not from the beautiful words spoken by the woman's testimony.
I could say that I'm writing this morning because I need an outlet, that I need to process my thoughts and write them.
But the reality? My first tendency is to hide, to not have to see or speak to anyone while this gaping wound exists. Yet my prayer for this blog is to be real, to be authentic. So I share with you my struggle, my pain, and my fight to look for the light in the darkness.
I could tell you that as I pushed my emotion-racked body to get out into the sunshine today and run, a wave of fresh endorphins gave me strength and motivation.
But the reality? My return from the run was met by a wave of fresh tears.
I could make this breakup sound funny and tell you how I watched five N.C.I.S. episodes yesterday and ate Twix Peanut Butter candy bars and Reese's ice cream on the couch (okay, I'm not so depressed that I can't admit that does sound pretty funny and classic).
But the reality is I'm broken. I'm crushed. I can't begin to describe or express my pain on this blog. I loved this man with everything in me and my greatest desire (besides following the One I love even more) was to love him, serve him, and support him. What do you do in a situation like this? I really don't know.
But what I do know is that even now, even in this place of confusion and pain and intense heartache...there is grace.
Grace in the words and actions of friends...the texts, emails, calls. The Psalm chapters A. and D. printed out for me. The Tim Horton's hot apple cider they brought. The tissues and muffins K. brought. Grace in my dad's kiss. My mom's arms. My brothers' love. My sister's tears.
Grace in the quiet moments with the Lord last night. Trusting that He is okay with my wordless prayers when I can't speak. That He holds me in the darkness. That He hears every heart-cry and sees every tear. That He weeps with us (John 11:35). That He's bigger than all of this and He sees beyond my vision but promises to stay right beside me through it.
Grace in the words of the director of the crisis pregnancy center during our call yesterday about my possible work there (more on that sometime in the future). She gracefully put aside our discussion of that and poured out her love and encouragement and words of hope on me. This amazing, godly woman that I barely know prayed for me and P. --and I felt the Spirit come down upon me with the most comfort and hope I've felt yet.

There are layers upon layers of emotions in this and reasons why I'm hurting. But the bottom line, every time, is that I love him. I love him and I don't want to be apart from him.
It will be okay. It will be okay. It will be okay. I've probably said "I can't do this" more times than I've said "I will get through this." But in my best moments...I pray with the Psalms...
Because you are my helper...
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely. -Psalm 63:7-8
Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him. -Psalm 62:5
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me. -Psalm 18:16-19
I love you, Lord;
you are my strength. -Psalm 18:1

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Ultimately, we human beings, whether we realize it or not, are involved in a cosmic spiritual conflict that pits God against Satan, with marriage and the family serving as a key arena in which spiritual and cultural battles are fought. If, then, the cultural crisis is symptomatic of an underlying spiritual crisis, the solution likewise must be spiritual, not merely cultural."

-Andreas Kostenberger, from God, Marriage, and Family

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Thoughts

I've been scribbling away passionately over at Catholic Young Women about the election tomorrow and I invite you to check out the posts. I know this is a touchy subject for some, but please please PLEASE pray about your voting discernment this Tuesday. If you are not voting at all, voting for a third party, or if you are voting for Obama, please RE-THINK YOUR DECISION. President Obama is the most pro-abortion president we've ever had, and his attack on religious freedom as well as his support for gay 'marriage' both have potentially devastating effects on this country. We must do what we can to prevent him from having another four years in office. Yes, God is sovereign but those of us who profess and follow Christ do need to stand up for His teachings and bring our country back to following Him as well. Because it's such a close race, I do believe our votes are best cast for Romney/Ryan rather than a third party because Romney will at least point us back in the right direction and to a culture that respects life and God's laws, even though he certainly is not a perfect candidate.

Part I What is a young woman's role in the election?

Part II What are some common attitudes we see around election season?

Part III What are the key issues Christians--especially women-- should be aware of and prioritize in voting?

And a few other links from other bloggers:

Women of Grace blog: “'The Catholic faith is always personal but never private,” the letter states. “If our faith is real, then it will naturally and necessarily guide our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices.'...Brooklyn, New York Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s wrote a column in the diocesan newspaper in which he said there is no excuse for voting for any candidate who supports the imposition of the birth control mandate and abortions rights, saying it 'stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option.'”

Gus Lloyd blog (author of Magnetic Christianity): "Once President Obama has gotten the Catholic Church in line, who will be next? This is an issue that should be of the gravest concern to everyone, not just Catholics. Even if you don’t agree with any of the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church, you will be affected by this issue. If the government can toss aside the First Amendment rights of Catholics, then what makes you think they won’t at some point toss aside your Constitutional rights? While public funding of abortions and the marginalization of religion become the order of the day, free speech will become a thing of the past. Those who dare speak out against the almighty state will be silenced, if they are heard at all."

Friday, November 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

Joining in on the fun of 7 Quick Takes...

 It's rehearsal time for an Advent drama the young adults at church are performing next weekend. Tonight was the music practice. I am LOVING singing with others makes me miss being in choir. And the songs C. picked out for the drama are absolutely beautiful. "Come to Us, Jesus" and "Ready the Way" are my favorites even though tonight was the first time I heard them!
There are speaking, singing, and dancing parts for this meditational-type performance. It's very unique and I'm excited to be a part of it. I even ventured into the realm of dancing, despite my lack of training in that area. The choreography has a lot of ballet (which I know nothing about--although I did do a workout DVD one time that used some ballet moves...) and it's incredibly expressive and beautiful. I'm loving these free dance lessons...
 Went through four days of volunteer training for our local crisis pregnancy center. It was emotionally and mentally draining, but I'm so glad I did it and I hope to be able to volunteer there once a week soon. It was mind-boggling to hear some of the stats and the stories. It was discouraging to think of the culture of death we've allowed to form, as well as the many negative health effects abortion has on women...but it was also encouraging to be in this pro-life class with 25 other women seeking to change all that.
 My friend K. is letting me borrow her zumba fitness DVD. I'm super-excited--even though I'm going to look absolutely ridiculous trying it out. With the cold, dark weather lately, I haven't been running...or even walking...outside and it's starting to get to me.'s time for some Latin music and dancing! Bring on the zumba! 

 My floors are dirty. And it's getting to me about as much as the lack of exercise thing. I've been gone almost every day and night this week. I'm home just enough to notice the dirt accumulating on the kitchen and bathroom floors, but not long enough to do anything about it. (Okay, so it wouldn't take me that long to grab a dustpan...but I'm really just wanting a span of a couple hours to do a more deep cleaning. Someday. Someday soon if I have anything to say about it.)
P. and I are headed on a mini road trip tomorrow to help his sister and her family move into their new home. I really would like a Saturday at home, but I figured dirty floors and Pinterest projects aren't really good reasons for me to stay home instead of joining him. This sacrificial love thing and all that--I'm a slow learner but I'm trying. And I am pretty excited about getting to ride in the car with him for several hours. And seeing his adorable niece and nephews and family.
Has not been the best week for prayer time with my busy schedule. I've prayed daily but not the long, purposeful prayer or devotional time I want...the coffee-shop-kind-of-prayer, you know? Today at work I took my lunch break and went to the chapel--thirsty for the Lord. It was so wonderful to spend time with Him. He refreshed and restored my soul with enough grace for the day and a little more. I read Psalm 57 while there--so beautiful, definitely a new favorite, and just right for today. "My heart is steadfast, O God..." There's that word again...
 Exhausted. Absolutely exhausted from the week. Cannot. Wait. To. Crawl. Into. Bed.
Goodnight! (Did I mention I'm loving this internet at home stuff?)