Monday, December 31, 2012

How to start the New Year

As I was thinking back on this past year, I couldn't help but be reminded of all the horrible tragedies that have occurred, and how the media only portrays all the negative things that happen in our world. I wanted to share this excerpt from a book I am reading called "Jesus Calling: Devotions for Every Day of the Year" by Sarah Young. One of my good friends lent it to me. This one is from December 28:
"I am your Refuge and Strength, an ever-present Help in trouble. Therefore, you don't need to be afraid of anything- not even cataclysmic circumstances. The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter: terrorism, serial killers, environmental catastrophes. If you focus on such dangers and forget that I am your Refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful. Every day I manifest My grace in countless places and situations, but the media take no notice. I shower not only blessings but also outright miracles on your planet.
As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My Presence all around you. Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting Joy. You have eyes that see and ears to hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world"
I found this to be extremely powerful and convicting as this year comes to a close. What are you going to do to help others see those small miracles and to find the presence of Christ amidst the darkness of this world? 

_____________________________________________________________________

On a personal note, this year has been an incredible journey for me. It began with a week in Nicaragua which touched my heart in such a profound way. Since then, the Lord has only brought me closer and closer to His merciful Heart. He has pursued me every day and has called me to be more in love with Him. Because of my human failings, I have not been able to repay Him in the way that He deserves. But that has not stopped Him from loving me even more. He knows our hearts and our weaknesses. I often beat myself up for being human, but that only means that I need to be more humble and realize that my humanity is a gift that allows me to be 100% reliant on Him. He wants the same from all of His children. He doesn't need us to rely on Him, He wants us. The God of the universe wants you to not carry your burdens alone. He wants to help you!

This upcoming year brings about a lot of change for me. I have no idea where I will be this year, let alone the next month. My decision to drop out of the graduate program is leading me on a journey where the ending is uncertain. There are many things that are unknown. I think it is entirely appropriate that the timing of this comes around the new year. The Lord is bringing me through a much deeper time of reliance and trust in His plan for my life. I may not know what this new year will bring, but I know that the Lord does, and that He will not leave me abandoned or orphaned. My prayer for this new year is that we can all grow a little more in humility and allow the Lord to carry us through 2013 and beyond. If we allow Him to do this, imagine just how much more peace and joy we will have in this upcoming year? Only He can make our lives more whole than we every could have imagined. Yes, there will still be struggles, there will still be times when we fall, but isn't it better to have someone who loves you unconditionally right there to hold you up? Don't go through this year alone. Go through it in the arms of our Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

#26 Acts link up

26 acts of kindness to honor those killed in the tragedy in Newtown.

This is a movement that has been spreading like wild fire over the internet. People have been doing random acts of service for people they don't even know, simply asking them to pay it forward in memory of those who lost their lives. I hope many of you will join this effort! Feel free to share any stories or pictures of things that you have done for others. Also, please join me in continuing to pray for the victims and their families.

Some great examples from those who have already started

http://www.facebook.com/26acts







Equipping Catholic Families

Monday, December 10, 2012

YOU ARE LOVED!

Today I decided to pop my Josh Groban "Awake" CD into the car on the way to my first final. I haven't listened to this CD in such a long time, but I immediately went straight to track 2 and listened to the truth that is in this song. "You are Loved." I always imagine this song as if Jesus is singing it. This is something that we all need to be reminded of, myself included. It is something that I forget, something that I struggle to believe sometimes. In a world where suicide rates are increasing, where a young child blames himself for the reason his father walked out, where a man struggles to provide for his family, where a teenage girl starves herself to be 'good enough'...to be loved. Well let me tell you something: YOU ARE LOVED. You have a Father in Heaven who is crazy in love with you, who sent His only Son so that you can be with Him in eternal life forever. Now that is love. But for those moments when we struggle to remember that, well...I'll let Josh take it away from here. He sings it much better than I :)


Be blessed.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Please help!

I am extremely thankful that I live in a community that will give all that they have to help those in need. With that being said, this beautiful family is very dear to my heart and are in need of a lot of assistance! Especially during this holiday season, why not consider sharing your blessings and give a little love to those who may struggle to see the light during such a difficult time. Know that whatever you do on this earth is rewarded in Heaven. Click on the link below for details about the family and how you can help! Be blessed.

http://www.indiegogo.com/partingthewaters?c=home


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Be the change you want to see in the world

Lately I have found myself getting angry about seemingly insignificant things. Something small will aggravate me to so much that I literally need to take a personal time out and figure out why the heck I am angry. And then I get more angry that I am angry about nothing! So I though about the things that seem to have set me off: things that are dirty, things that are out of place, unanswered text messages, the toilet paper roll not being re-filled... stupid stuff that shouldn't make me angry. But it does. The big question is WHY??

I realized that because I am such a giving person, that I expect others to do the same and get angry when they don't. Now this is definitely something I need to work on. But just because I go out of my way to do little acts of service for others, doesn't mean they have to...I shouldn't expect that from others, right? WRONG. Now, I should not get angry or upset if my expectations are not met, but I also should definitely not stop expecting people to show common courtesies and maybe a little more than that. I guess my challenge is this: expect greatness. Not only in others, but in yourself. Hold yourself to higher standards. Go out of your way to pick up that little piece of trash, to fold your roommates laundry, to bring a friend some coffee when they're having a rough day at work. Being busy is not an excuse. If you are too busy to do something nice for someone, than you're too busy.

"Do small things with great love"...

and you'd be surprised how much joy that can bring. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I also have a challenge for myself and anyone else having similar struggles: any time I get angry about one of the above stupidities, I am going to do one act of service to counteract that. BUT, I need to make sure I am not doing it out of resentment, otherwise it is meaningless.

Pray for opportunities to love and be loved. Be the change you want to see in the world!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

New sisters and weddings

1.I am extremely thankful that one of my best friends is FINALLY married! I know she has waited patiently for this day and I pray that they have a blessed life together. And just look how precious this picture is :)

Amy and Matt on their wedding day!

I was very blessed by their witness of true love and what a real, holy relationship looks like. I learned a lot from them. And I was able to carry up the gifts at their wedding. It was a very special moment!


2. I am also very thankful for my seven new sisters!! Our household is blessed by each and every one of them. I was given the opportunity to lead them in formation before they were inducted and I was humbled and grateful for that gift. Their beautiful hearts continually fill me with such joy :)


3. I am eternally thankful for this guy:




Just a few of the highlights of the past few days. Happy Thursday :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude Journal

In one of my Counseling classes, we learned about a technique called the "gratitude journal". This is pretty self-explanatory, but it is used for people who focus too much on the negative in life and not on the good things that happen every day. The goal is for them at the end of every day to write down a few things they were thankful for during that day. I decided that I really loved this idea and want to start doing that more regularly. I think far too often, especially with our nation being in constant struggle, we are tempted to despair or to only focus on the things that are going wrong in our lives. I am definitely guilty of this. This is no way to live! We need to be thankful for the simple pleasures of life and the joy that can be found in every day moments. So my blog might be taking a little spin into a "blessings journal" for a while. Feel free to comment with things that you are thankful for as well and spread the gratitude. We can never be truly happy if we are never thankful :)


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Defeat at the Dermatologist...

I was at the Dermatologist the other day for a routine skin check and was also talking about the possibilities of going on Acutane. For those of who you don't know, it is a very strong drug that more or less gets rid of Acne for good once you start using it. Now I don't have a huge acne problem, it is more of an annoyance, so it isn't necessary for me to use Acutane. However, because of how strong the medication is, it will cause huge birth defects if you become pregnant while taking it, so it is REQUIRED that you take birth control while taking this medication. I tried to explain to my dermatologist that I am extremely Catholic and waiting til marriage so the chances of me getting pregnant are slim to none. I thought that would be good enough for me not to have to take birth control. But I was wrong. Now this may not seem like a big deal...if I am not having sex, it is not like the birth control pill would be getting rid of any potential children I have and be acting against my religious beliefs, so what is the issue? The issue is that the government cannot trust women enough to keep their legs closed so it is mandated that we go on the birth control pill before you are allowed to take this medication.

At any rate, I left the doctor's office feeling very annoyed defeated. My promise to abstain was not good enough because unfortunately women cannot be trusted to not have sex. I realize this may irritate people, but this is the reality of the situation. Some may see it as the government being protective and taking care of women, but that is now how I see it. It violates my right to not take the pill and hold myself accountable for my actions.Since when does the government care about the the unborn child in the womb anyways?

Needless to say, I am not taking Acutane. My vanity will have to get over itself :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chick-fil-a controversy brings about a renewed hope but also a greater call for action

On August 1, 2012, thousands of people lined up for hours to show their support for Chick-fil-a and traditional marriage (different then hating gay people...just saying) and I have to say that I was blown away by the amount of people present there. With everything that has been going on lately, I had just lost all hope for humanity and the values that our great nation was founded upon. I really was not expected that many people to be there in support of the values that I hold so dear to my heart. I was almost moved to tears to see that we are not alone in this and that there are thousands of others fighting for the same cause. It gave me such joy and a fresh hope! But then I saw someone post this:

"You'd never see that many Christians lined up at a food bank or homeless shelter...and that's something Jesus actually said to do"

and I got really angry. At first I was angry because I was prideful and thinking 'How dare they even bring up what Jesus has said...since when do they even care about Jesus?!? What right do they have to accuse us like that??' But the more I thought about it, the more truth I saw in that unfortunate statement and the more convicted I felt to do something about it. We need to follow the lead of Blessed John Paul II and Mother Theresa and "go out into the streets" and be the hands and feet of Christ. We need to actively and regularly follow His commandments and bring His love to all those we meet. They may always have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to Christianity, but don't let it be because we aren't doing what we say through Baptism that we are going to do. And this means more than just going to food banks and homeless shelters. It means pursuing a relationship with the Lord and doing our best to proclaim His word to all we meet. It means being on your knees every day begging for the Lord's mercy upon the world. I think it's time that we realize how crucial this time is, and how vital it is that Christians everywhere need to stop hiding who they are. Because by coming out on August 1st to eat at Chick-fil-a, you did more than just eat a sandwich. You showed the world a piece of who you are. Let's not let it stop at that. The world now knows who we are and how much we stand behind our values. As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman 1, "With great power comes great responsibility". We have the responsibility to be authentic Christians and do the Lord's work here on earth. The only Gospel someone may read could be your life. How are you going to live yours?

Monday, July 30, 2012

40 Days in the Desert

"This is my prayer in the desert, when all that's within me feels dry; this is my prayer in my hunger and need, my God is a God who provides"- Hillsong
Recently I have been thinking a lot about Jesus' 40 days spent in the desert being tempted by the devil and how we are called to imitate these 40 days during Lent. Now I know that it is not anywhere near Lent, but I believe that we are called to purify ourselves in this way throughout the year as well. An appropriate period of 40 days presented itself to me (long story) and I decided to take that time and detach emotionally from the things in my life that were hindering my relationship with the Lord. Fortunately, I have become very skilled in the art of emotional chastity having done an emotional dating fast last year. And by skilled I mean that I can recognize the areas where I have been failing and try to work on them... not that I'm good at being emotionally chaste. I still have a lot of room to grow! But the Lord has blessed me with the ability to be very self-aware and I know when I'm messing up. If you haven't gathered by now, women usually have the most difficulty in this area when men are involved. It has been very difficult for me to be still single while many of my close friends are getting married if not already hitched, and I'm sure many women out there experience this same thing. Its rough. But there is a beauty in it that I think many of us fail to realize. And it took me these 40 days to really realize it and see the beauty that there is in the suffering. This is time for you and the Lord. Allow Him to pursue you! Something that I did which was extremely helpful and beautiful, was to ask the Lord to pursue me. Actually, I told Him that I needed Him to,and I needed to be able to see and recognize His love for me on a daily basis. And let me tell you, as soon as I started asking Him this, He was more than happy to shower me with love, because that is what He is waiting to do for each and every one of us.

My "desert time" as I like to call it wasn't anything extravagant, I didn't isolate myself from society and withdraw for 40 days, I simply took the time to refocus myself and really look up at the Lord and wait upon Him, because everything happens in His timing. And you don't have to be single to do this. The Lord should always be your first, number one love. If you let Him, He will give you the most thrilling plan in existence, better than anything you could have ever dreamed of.

"But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me" - Micah 7:7

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A little taste of Heaven

Nikon Coolpix L810 16.1MP Digital Camera with 26x Optical Zoom -A few weeks ago, I had the privelege of attending a healing service which was a part of the Charismatic Conference at Franciscan University. After the service (which was incredible and worth another blog post) the Eucharist was brought into the fieldhouse and processed throughout the rows of people while myself and the 100's of other men and women present sang praise and worship. A couple weeks after that, I had the same experience only at one of the various youth conferences which I attended as a prayer minister. I can't help thinking every time that this is what Heaven must be like: everyone singing in adoration and completely in awe of our Lord. I know that many people are freaked out by Charismatic praise, but in reality, it is just another element to our life as Christians. There are many references in scripture to "laying on of hands" and the various gifts of the spirit. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

 "Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

And just so we are all clear, the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity... Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit. You have to have a healthy balance of all three :) I know some people aren't really "into that", but just think about it for a minute. The Holy Spirit is not some crazy ghost floating around that does scary things. He is one with the Father and the Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 

245 "The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381): "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father."71 By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as "the source and origin of the whole divinity".72 But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son's origin: "The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same substance and also of the same nature. . . Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone,. . . but the Spirit of both the Father and the Son."73 The Creed of the Church from the Council of Constantinople confesses: "With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified."74"

The Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles to be within and among them to help them in preaching and ministering to the people around them. And why wouldn't we want to use the same assistance that the Apostles did? And another thing: allowing the Holy Spirit to move within you brings your life so much peace and joy. I love praise and worship so I am a little biased, but why do I love it? I can't even express in words the immense peace and love that I feel when I am praising the Lord. My soul feels as though it is elevated and among the angels and saints in His presence. I'm sure it is not on the same level as the ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila in which she felt at perfect union with Christ, but I feel like my heart is going to explode with the love that the Lord has for me and each and every one of his children. I would like to encourage those who shy away from praising the Lord in this way, but maybe give it a shot. You don't have to do anything extravagant. Maybe just start your day by inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you. A simple "come Holy Spirit" will do. Enjoy that little piece of Heaven on earth.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some random Pittsburgh History

So this is not anything deep, just something that I have been thinking about lately, and I feel that I need to briefly educate people on this topic: the topic of "Pittsburghese". For those of you who don't know, this is the language of the city of Pittsburgh, the manner in which us Pittsburghers talk. A lot of people outside of the Burgh know this simply as the word "yinz" but it is actually much more than that. We have a whole book dedicated to Pittsburgh speech and the way in which we formulate our words and phrases to sound different than anywhere else in the United States. I know there are a lot of "yinz" haters out there, so here is a bit of history for you on that. This word, used to address more than one person, comes from the Scottish-Irish immigrants who came to Southwestern, PA at the beginning of the 17th century. So no, we didn't just arbitrarily make up that word. You can take up your frustration with the European immigrants who came here centuries ago. It is always the same argument against the word yinz: "It doesn't make any sense, at least the word y'all makes sense". Well it doesn't have to make sense to be a part of our unique history and culture in Pittsburgh, and I'm sorry if you don't like it or don't have a language of your own, but we are quite proud of our Pittsburghese and I am prepared to fight for it! We are all entitled to our own opinions so no one is forcing you to like it, but I will say 'yinz' as much as my heart desires. From a proud Pittsburgher, I hope yinz have a good day :)

If you're interested in reading more about our history or how to speak like a Pittsburgher, here ya go!

http://pittsburghspeech.pitt.edu/PittsburghSpeech_History.html

http://pittsburghspeech.pitt.edu/PittsburghSpeech_PgheseOverview.html



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A new year, a new life

At the beginning of January, I had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua with 9 others (4 of whom were my beautiful household sisters) and serve at the orphanages in Diriamba and Managua. Theses orphanages housed children who are disabled and who had been neglected and abandoned by their parents. I had never done anything like this before, so naturally I was a little bit nervous about what to expect. Well nervous is an understatement. When we got there, I started panicking. It was December 31st, 2011, new years eve. Little did I know though that my life was about to change.
The first night we were there, we were in mass with the kids, and of course the mass is in Spanish (which I don't speak). I was sitting there freaking out and looking at all the kids around me, and freaking out some more....I decided that I should probably pray. I asked the Lord to give me His heart and teach me how to love these kids, because I didn't know how to do it myself.
And that's when I started noticing things. The little boy sitting in front of me reminded me so much of my own 5 year old brother. Really, what makes them any different than my own siblings? Just because they have mental or physical disabilities doesn't make them scary. What am I so afraid of? Questions like this started running through my mind. I was pondering these thoughts as we returned back to the orphanage. Since it was New Year's eve, the kids were allowed to stay up and bring in the new year with a dance party and a pinata. Somewhere along the course of the evening, I experience something so powerful, so profound, that I have never experienced before: real, authentic, pure, joy. Now I'm not saying I have never been happy in my life, but this was something different, something so transcendent, so much more. I can't even really explain it. All I know is that my world was turned upside down that night. These kids just loved with such intensity. It doesn't make sense by the world's standards. These kids had been through so much in their lives. They have been abused, ridiculed for their differences, neglected, and yet they were the most loving, joyful people I have ever met in my entire life. My heart of stone had been turned into a heart of flesh. Even throughout the rest of week, while doing manual labor and pulling thousands and thousands of nails out of wood, I was so happy. I didn't care that my hands were sore, that I had scrapes on my arms and legs, that I was exhausted. I was just so joyful. Not even getting sick on the last day could shake the happiness that I had found there. The only thing that could, was the idea of leaving them. I thought that I was going to be fine, that I was ready to go home, but it wasn't until I was actually leaving and hugging them goodbye, that it hit me. I left my heart there with those kids, but I will forever hold onto that joy that they gave me. Everyone always says that you end up getting so much more than you give on trips like these, but I never expected to have my world become so much brighter. I had found my happiness. Of course I am still in pursuit of the ultimate happiness which is union with my Lord in Heaven, but I am one step closer to reaching that by having known these beautiful children in Nicaragua. I could not have thought of a better way to bring in the new year.

Vanessa, who stole my heart <3

Pulling out nails


My wonderful mission team