On Prayer

hail mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. holy mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, amen.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to pray is to speak to God, especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something; to make a request in a humble manner; to address God (or a god) with adoration, confession, supplication or thanksgiving.

hey God, just wanted to say thanks for all you’re doing in my life.

I was raised in a (semi) Catholic home. We went to church on Christmas and Easter and the occasional Sunday. I started going to Catholic school in 6th grade and went to mass every Wednesday through 8th grade. I went to Catholic high school and then to a Catholic, Jesuit university. My only real understanding of faith was academic. I took classes on the history of Catholicism, the sacraments, saints and a myriad of other things. It wasn’t until my third year in college when a very dear friend invited me to mass that I started to understand more about what faith felt like. I hadn’t been to church regularly since 8th grade and, to be honest, I wasn’t all that interested. I mostly kept going because it was important to my friends.

Most nights it just felt like I was going through the motions. I said the prayers, sang the songs, stood, sat and kneeled at the appropriate times. It didn’t really feel special or valuable. Then one night at mass, after a particularly difficult week, I found myself deep in conversation with a candle on the altar. I was crying out for help in honest desperation. It was the first time I felt a personal connection with God. I continued to explore that relationship and eventually decided to get baptized and become Catholic. My decision was based on a calling to grow closer to God. And, if we’re being honest, familiarity. I knew I wanted a relationship with the Lord, and Catholicism was the only religion I knew. It was the only path to God I knew. It turns out becoming Catholic as an adult takes a lot of work. I took classes, had meetings, went on retreats and wrote letters. I studied, a lot. Somewhere along the line I lost touch with God. I never felt like I had a personal relationship with Him. I felt like I didn’t know how to pray.

I didn’t know how to talk to God.

All of my interactions with the Lord were scripted. I was constantly talking at God, but I didn’t ever feel like I was actually talking with Him. I said Hail Mary after Hail Mary, I was always mumbling the Lord’s Prayer and praying for the well-being of everyone I could think of. It all felt so forced and formal. So, I strayed.

Then, life happened. I graduated and moved to Missouri for grad school. I was struggling. So, I turned back to my Hail Mary’s. I turned back to familiarity. I turned back to God. God knew I was ready for a personal relationship with Him. He blessed me with some incredible people that showed me what life was like with a relationship with Him.

I started praying. Often. At first it was mostly just Hail Mary’s and the Lord’s Prayer. I prayed for the well-being of those around me. Then, my faith started to change. It grew and deepened in ways I didn’t know were possible. It became personal. There were prayers of thanksgiving. Confessions. Cries for help. I shared my dreams and my fears. There were prayers of adoration. I thanked Him for little things like crunchy leaves and fuzzy socks, and big things like my chosen career and my incredible boyfriend. Next thing I knew, my life became one giant, personal conversation with the Lord. I finally feel like I have a beautifully personal relationship with God. My God. My Savior.

Here’s the thing you guys, prayer can be pretty much anything you want it to be. I was watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy tonight, and a dying patient asked one of the doctors to pray a Hail Mary with him. It was the first time I had heard the prayer in a while, and I was surprised at how beautiful it sounded. Now, I know it’s just a TV show and they were acting, but you guys, it sounded so beautiful and genuine. You see, prayer isn’t all about the words. I think prayer is about your relationship with the Lord. He loves us. He wants a relationship with us. If that relationship comes through a Hail Mary or two, that’s cool, and if it’s thanking Him for fuzzy socks, well, then that’s cool too. What matters is that we live for Him. That we are constant and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12). That we trust Him. I think prayer is about our heart.

in those days when you pray, i will listen. if you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. “i will be found by you,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:12-14a

everything is beautiful

It’s November. Can someone please explain to me when that happened? Woof. November means beautiful fall colors. November means crunchy leaves and cool breezes. November means the end of the semester. November means stress. And so far, November means negativity. Negativity sucks, you guys. It’s overwhelming and draining and unnecessary. It pulls us away from the Lord. Not cool. But, we’re human, right? It happens.

I think our negativity often stems from a sense of dissatisfaction with where we are in life. We are constantly looking for more. We want to have more, do more and be more. We are always looking forward to the next stage in life, instead of enjoying where we are at this particular moment. I know I’m guilty of this dissatisfaction. It’s an easy trap to fall into, because we don’t always see it as negative. We don’t think it’s a bad thing to aspire for more, and honestly, it’s probably not. I think it’s the lack of satisfaction and happiness with where we are and what we have that is the real issue.

yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. so I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-12

Everything is beautiful for its own time. I think we can struggle with contentment because we know we are made for more. Our time here is temporary. Earth is just a holding zone; it’s not our permanent home. The Lord has blessed us with this desire for eternity, but we still don’t truly understand what that means. We can’t. Honestly, I don’t want to understand it either.

As stressful as it is, life is beautiful now. The very things that stress us out the most are some of the our greatest blessings. We can’t even begin to imagine the incredible things the Lord has planned for us. We need to take a step back and remember that where we are now is a blessing. It is part of our adventure; part of our plan. A few years ago we were looking forward to getting to where we are today.

Here’s the thing you guys. Life is good. Enjoy it. Be where you are. Play in the leaves. Drink good coffee. Watch Netflix documentaries about Quidditch. Tell someone you love them. Relish in the things that make you happy.

this is only temporary

so let’s not get tired of doing what is good. at just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Galatians 6:9

So much of this life as we know it is temporary. Things like our friends, jobs, and stress; it’s all fleeting, simply fading in and out of our consciousness. We know that. But somehow, that knowledge doesn’t seem to lessen our struggle. We struggle to understand why good things have to end and bad things have to happen. Welcome to life, friends.

Lately, I feel like I’m stuck in this place where not a lot of anything makes sense. I’m not sure what direction my life is going, or what my ultimate destination will be. Sure, I have ideas and goals, but who knows what will actually happen. You see, my struggle is more with why I’m stuck in this temporary place. Why the Lord has placed me in this situation where I feel stagnant and useless. Where I feel like I’m not making a difference in the slightest, when all I want in life is to make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not all a struggle. There is a lot of positive in my life right now. The Lord has blessed me with an incredible relationship with the best guy I know. I’ve got some pretty stellar friends. I’m graduating with my master’s degree in seven months. God is good. Boom boom.

I just can’t seem to wrap my head around this temporary state. I feel like I’m stuck in this awkward limbo phase of life, where I’m not really a Big Kid yet, but I’m definitely not a kid anymore either. I know I’m called to do big things with my life. We are called to proclaim the Good News and share the light and love of the Lord with the world. I know that. So then why am I here? Stuck in a tiny town with a community that is dwindling? Struggling in a seemingly meaningless job? Struggling with how to best support and care for the people around me?

Here’s the thing you guys, my life is not my own. My life is for the Lord. Yeah, I’m stressed, overwhelmed, confused and burnt out, but you know what, it’s only temporary.  When we get caught up in these struggles, I think we forget just how big our God really is. He’s so much bigger and greater than any worldly struggle. In all reality, we have no idea what our lives will look like in the next five minutes, weeks, months or years. Well, maybe the next five minutes, but you get the point. That means we have to be intentional with our time. Love authentically. Dedicate ourselves to really making a difference. We can’t waste our time stressing, because in all reality, it’s only temporary. When your situation feels meaningless, turn to the Lord. Focus on Him and His goodness. Bury yourself in the Word. Stop thinking about why your situation doesn’t matter for you, and try to understand why you matter to someone else.

So here’s the thing, you guys, do what is good every single day. Don’t waste your time or energy on things that don’t matter. Don’t give up. Do trust the Lord. He has incredible plans for us, and at just the right time, we’ll start to understand.

stand strong and be courageous, for HE will not forsake you.

I could gush about God for days, you guys. He’s the coolest. I’m constantly amazed at the incredible ways He moves in my life.

Last week I was struggling with really trusting the Lord. A lot of my prayers were focused on guidance and strength to not only seek the Lord with all that I am, but also to truly trust His will.

Some days I’m all about His will. I mean, I always am, but some days it’s definitely easier than others. Some days, I’m like “Yes! God has a plan for me, and it’s the greatest thing ever, and I know I’m here for a reason!”. Other days, not so much. On those days it’s more like, “Alright God, I know you have me here for a reason, I’m just not super sure what that is at this exact moment. I’m doing my best to trust you, but it’s a struggle right now.”.

My struggle to really trust God’s plan for me often presents itself in the form of discontentment with where I am in life. I get frustrated about my job or the town I live in. Sometimes I get on these kicks where I think I know more than I do, and so I try to figure out how to do more because I feel like where I’m at just isn’t enough.

Woof.

I get so frustrated with myself when this happens. For real though. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways, from my community and relationships to the opportunity to pursue higher education. Yet, sometimes I still feel like it’s not enough. Sometimes I get so bogged down with my job and grad school and life in general, that I feel like there has got to be something better for me. Let me tell ya, that’s a pretty sucky feeling.

Church on Sunday, though. Man. I felt like all of my prayers were answered. The message was incredibly convicting and encouraging. It was all about the book of Joshua, which, I wasn’t super familiar with. The sermon was about being courageous and really letting go and trusting the Lord. Joshua goes through some pretty crazy things, and the Lord needs Joshua to truly trust Him. The Lord knows this isn’t easy. He knows we question, and sometimes need reassurance. In the first 9 verses of the book of Joshua the Lord commands Joshua to trust Him, saying “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9) threw times. Three times in nine short verses! The last time the Lord shares this commandment, he adds “…do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

How can we be afraid if God is with us?

Having faith takes courage, you guys. I feel like that’s not something that’s ever talked about or allowed. It seems like faith and trusting the Lord is always presented as this super easy thing that is just a given. Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes it really isn’t. And that’s ok! The Lord works best in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He wants our vulnerability and our fears, so that our strength can truly come from Him.

Here’s the thing, you guys. God is so good. Stand strong and be courageous. He is always with us. Even in grad school. Even on Mondays.

Celebrate half birthdays

Yesterday was my half birthday. I didn’t even know that was a thing, to be perfectly honest. But one of my very best friends is a big fan of half birthdays, and she has been mentioning mine on and off for a while. I didn’t think she’d actually do anything, because, like I said, I didn’t know half birthdays could be a thing, but she definitely did! This wonderful woman baked me a cake! How cool is she?! And if that wasn’t enough, my boyfriend also surprised me with flowers! Sunflowers! My absolute favorite.

Tom (the boyfriend) is one of my favorite people ever, and one of my favorite things about him is his sense of logic and practicality. Celebrating a half birthday is in no way logical or practical. But I love birthdays, and he knows how much I love birthdays. He went out of his way to celebrate me with thought and intentionality. He’s the best, you guys.

This all might not seem like much to get excited about, but let me tell you, I felt so loved and cared about. God moves in the coolest ways. He has blessed me with an incredible relationship and beautiful community. I love these people with my entire being. They have taught me so much. They have strengthened my feet on my walk with Christ. They are the most encouraging people I have ever met. They are a beautiful, tangible expression of God’s love for me. They remind me every single day that I am enough. That I have a purpose in this world. That I am loved.

don’t just pretend to love others. really love them. hate what is wrong. hold tightly to what is good. love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:9-10

So here’s the thing, you guys. Celebrate half birthdays.  Celebrate the small things. Give someone flowers for no reason. Share a genuine compliment. Take the time to pray with someone. Take any opportunity you have to share an authentic expression of love with someone. But don’t just do these things to do them or to complete your good deed of the day. Find joy in celebrating and lifting each other up.

The thing is, when you love on someone, you aren’t just sharing your love; you are also sharing Christ’s love.

be still and know that HE is GOD.

I woke up on Monday feeling completely overwhelmed and dissatisfied with where I am, and that feeling has carried throughout my entire week. And that has been the opposite of pleasant, let me tell you.

I had a wonderful weekend that gave me a small taste of what real life could be like. I spent it with someone I care very much for and his beautiful family. I spent some time in the city. I was productive without being even a little stressed. I was surrounded by incredible people. I had fun. I felt comfortable and at ease. I was happy.

Then I came back to my reality. Living where I work. In a tiny town. Going to classes that don’t meet my expectations in the slightest. Struggling with a severe lack of motivation. Stress City. I was overcome with this awful sense of dread and discontentment. I want more. I want to do more, see more and be more. I feel limited and stagnant.

I’m a processor. I need movement and conversation to understand where I am and how to move forward. Everyone seems just as busy and overwhelmed as I am, so I didn’t want to share my burden. I injured my knee over the weekend, thought I was okay to run on it on Tuesday, but definitely made it worse. All I wanted to do was run, but even walking was painful. So there I was. Curled up on my couch. Stuck. Lonely. Hurting physically and mentally.

I reached out to a friend who lovingly told me that crying is okay, and reminded me to lean on the Lord, because he’s there whether or not I’m running, and that He says be still. I complained, saying I felt helpless, and she said that will be a struggle until I learn to accept the fact that I am not in control.

Gulp. Yep. True fact.

So, I cheated a little. I couldn’t run, but I couldn’t sit in my apartment anymore either. I went for a nice, long drive. Our God is in no way limited to movement, but I really needed movement.

I re-wrote that sentence ten times trying to make it sound better, but it doesn’t. Because it’s pretty awful. God isn’t limited, but I needed to be in control. No. That’s not how it works!

be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

Psalm 46:10

Bottom line, His grace is enough. Seek the Lord and trust His will. Our lives should be lived in such a way that honors and glorifies Him and His plans; not what we think is best for our own lives. He has placed us where we are, at this exact moment, with love and intentionality. It may not seem like much now, but trust that He has a plan for us. Life is good you guys, and it will only get better.

trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6

A Ramble of Praise

Dear Lord,

Don’t mind me as I ramble Your praise.

I was sitting in Your house Sunday morning, listening to Your word surrounded by a community of Your believers, and I have never felt more at peace. I was overcome with emotion and gratefulness for your blessings. I think back to where I was just a year ago – I didn’t know You or Your Truth. I thought I did, but it can’t even begin to compare to how I know You now. Lord, I love you more and more every day; I need you more and more every day. My life is beautiful and meaningful because I accepted Your love into my heart.

As I was sitting there reveling in the glory of Your Grace, it started to rain. It was gentle at first, with the sun shining through the clouds. Then the clouds overtook the sun, and it absolutely poured. During that time, my whole world stopped. At first, all I could think about was Your goodness and how my life has changed since I recognized You as my one true Lord and Savior. I still heard the gentle murmur of the sermon in the background. Eventually that voice began to fade away completely; mine did too. I sat there in a beautiful, quiet contentment, watching the rain fall, surrounded by a community of believers intent on Your word.

The rain stopped suddenly and the sun came back out, shining brighter than before. I couldn’t help but feel like I had been cleansed and refreshed. I don’t know, Lord. I just felt new and clean and loved. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I believe I have been called to Brockport for a reason, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I am so happy and content with my life. Lord thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for confidence and comfort when I started to doubt You and second guess Your plans for me. Thank you for this beautiful life. For showing me love and happiness. Thank you for continuing to surround me with people who lift me up and encourage me, show me what it means to be a Christian and ultimately bring me closer to You. I have learned and grown so much in my time here. I have developed as a person and as a professional. Most importantly, I have grown deeper in my relationship with You.

I was driving home today, looking at Your beautiful sunset, singing Your praise with my windows rolled down, and I couldn’t help but smile. Your world is absolutely beautiful, Lord. I felt your presence so strong and I was so incredibly happy. You are so good. I am so grateful to know You and to need You. I love You with all that I am. I am both honored and humbled to serve You. I know that as long as I continue to trust in You, I have nothing to fear.

Thank you, Lord.