Sunday, December 11, 2016

I'll Be Waiting

It's that time of year when everyone is busily preparing for Christmas, but it isn't Christmas yet, it's still Advent.  We're preparing and we're waiting.  I've always been terrible at waiting.  Ter-ri-ble.

I used to tell my older sister what I bought her for Christmas in the car ride home from purchasing it.  I tell most people far too much about me in the first meeting.  I binge-watched the entire second season of Fuller House the night that it came out (with the exception of the three episodes that I skipped because I wanted to hurry up and get to the part when they address whether or not DJ and Steve will get back together).  So, I'm sure you can all join me in appreciating the irony in the fact that my church youth group invited me to speak to the teens about Advent and waiting.

And yet, in spite of this irony, God has had me doing QUITE a great deal of waiting lately.  I feel called to marriage, but am currently single.  Waiting.  I am currently discerning the direction I want to move in for work.  Waiting.  I'm working on dealing with some spiritual and emotional wounds, but the progress is very slow and in tiny increments. Waiting.

Boy does God have a sense of humor, or what?  Or perhaps it's something more than God having a good-natured chuckle at my inability to wait.  Perhaps there is value in the waiting.  Perhaps there is something to be learned.

In this time of waiting, I've been trying to spend that time doing a good deal of pondering, soul-searching, praying, and discerning.  I've been learning how to live with myself, how to listen to God, and how persevere. I've even been learning to wait.  I've been learning ways to cope with waiting.  I'm learning slowly.  

But if you find yourself waiting, I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone and invite you to join me in seizing this great opportunity.  I'll be waiting! 😉

Sunday, March 8, 2015

When My Father Fails

Fathers are so important.  Studies show that a strong father figure is extremely important to a child's development. Yet, it is no secret that we are having quite a crisis of fatherhood in our society.  Many fathers are absent or maybe present, but very distant.  And even the best of fathers have their shortcomings.  So what do we do?  I'm not asking how we can reform society and fix fathers everywhere, but rather, I am reflecting on the question of how we ought to handle it when our own father's fail. (Just a disclaimer, I am not talking about abusive relationships.  If you find yourself in an abusive situation, you need to get some professional help ASAP.)

I have been uniquely blessed to grow up in a very loving home, with both mother and father still in the picture and happily married.  This is increasingly not the norm in our world.  But even with a childhood that could easily be called idyllic, there were moments when the combination of my human frailty and that of my parents, left me feeling hurt, confused, and unloved, because that's what sin does.  Until we are all sinless, we will inevitably hurt those we love, even unintentionally.

A few recent conversations with some friends and the youth with whom I work brought forth the question of how to handle the weakness of our parents.  Children naturally resist the idea of their parents having flaws.  They want to believe that daddy is a superhero who will never fail us. But the fact remains that sometimes our parents fail us.

I am admittedly not an expert on this topic, but these are some things that I have learned in my short years on this earth about this particular quandary.  Many of these lessons apply for dealing with the shortcoming of any other person, including ourselves.

1. Accept him as he is.
Those moments of failure hurt so much more when we have unrealistic expectations of our fathers. In recognizing his areas of weakness, then you can be prepared for it when it comes. Show him the same mercy and patience that God shows you when you try to overcome your weaknesses.  My relationship with my own dad became so much smoother when I came to understand his fear, insecurities, struggles, etc.

2. Love him.
In the face of disappointment, hurt, loneliness, continue to shower your father with love.  Find out his love language and use it.  Don't do it to change him or to win love in return.  Don't do it for thanks or for praise.  Just love him and make sure he knows it.  Dad's need that love as much as you do and they are often overlooked.  As the "child" in the parent/child relationship, it is easy to get caught up in your own needs and forget that your dad needs your love too, even if you don't feel like you're getting anything out of it.

3. Forgive him.
This one may [most likely] have to be one that you have recommit to moment by moment. Your relationship with your father will rapidly become unbearable if you don't find a way to let go of past hurts.  They build up.  If you don't let them go, then the relationship just ends up being one giant wound.  Counseling and or spiritual direction is extremely helpful if your hurts are not something you can let go on your own.

4. Apologize.
It takes humility to apologize, especially if we're convicted that we're not the only offending party.  But a little humility goes a long way, even if we can't see the results.  Sometimes we are unaware of the degree things we say or do can hurt our parents.  It is not little thing to learn to recognize when you could have done things better and apologize for your own shortcomings.  Extra points for apologizing before he brings up the issue with you.

5. Get some extra father figures.
In addition to working on your relationship with your own father, it's important that your need for a good father figure is being met.  It's not in any way cheating on your dad to have a couple of "adopted" fathers in your life. They can be a great sounding board and offer fresh perspectives when you need.  I find these father figures in my uncles and the many holy priests that I have known.

6. Let God be your father.
We have a perfect father who never, ever fails us in God the Father.  He is always ready to heal your wounds, forgive you, affirm you, hold you...All you have to do is turn to Him and let Him do those things for you.  Building your relationship with God the Father will do so much to help and console you.  Don't waste that precious opportunity.

So, those are my tips for a better relationship with your daddy.  I want to give a special shout out/thank you to my own wonderful father, who has always done his best to let me know how much he loves and cares for me.  I admire him immensely and I wouldn't be who I am today without him.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In Search of Love

Courtship Scene by Rudolf Alfred Hoeger
Given my age and current state in life, the topic of marriage, dating, etc. comes up quite often.  It's discussed at my place of work, with my family, with my friends, with strangers, and with new acquaintances.  Then, of course, there are all those blog posts, news articles, and e-mails about spouse-seeking young adults. There is so much being said about this topic that I am likely to repeat someone else's sentiments, but it's been coming up so often lately that I'd like to express my reflections on the subject.

I like to read old novels like "An Old Fashioned Girl," "Anne of Green Gables," "Pride and Prejudice."  My girl friends and I often share our delights over the sweet romantic scenes, the grand gestures, the noble heroes, etc. contained in such books as these.  We also occasionally find ourselves lamenting that we don't find such heroes and love stories in the modern era.

The reality is that the old model of courtship had plenty of it's own problems.  The pressure to marry was so great in the past the many people rushed into marriages with spouses who were hardly known to them, leaving them stuck in loveless marriages with the potential to be abusive, dysfunctional, and deeply broken. The mode of courtship often facilitated these types of marriages as it limited the types of topics that were permitted to be discussed and it ensured that there was always a third party present.  Still, one must admit that there was a certain clarity in the old mode of courtship.

While the notion of courtship was established and taught in society, there was a clear protocol of how to act.  If someone abused that protocol, there were societal sanctions enforced.

This is not a case to return to courtship of old.  Such a proposal is not feasible, nor beneficial, in my opinion.

Still the absence of a formal structure has caused some obvious problems that we as a society must find a way to overcome.

The societal pressure to marry has not gone away, it's only shifted or delayed.  This for numerous reasons, not necessarily all together or at the same time.  The three most common reasons, in my experience, are education, work, and age.  In the case of age, many people simply have no wish to marry as young.  They have the idea that if they wait, it will somehow better prepare them for marriage.  There is also the desire of people to "live while they're young." In the case of career and education, there is a sense that these things take precedence over marriage and starting a family.

These delays aside, the pressure remains.  Some might say that it is a biological urge to mate a procreate. Others might point to the spiritual and emotional need to love and be loved, for life.  Whether for these reasons or others, the pressure is real.

This pressure is compounded with a newer problem: the high divorce rate of our era.  This results in a great fear of making a commitment or, more specifically, making the wrong commitment.  No one wants to be tethered to the wrong partner for life, but a failed marriage is also less than ideal.  The desire to avoid either of these often breeds a fear of commitment.

In addition to these potential problems there is the the lack of structure in the modern souse-seeking process.

Some people prefer the "pick-up" method, wherein they approach a stranger at a bar, grocery store, church group, club, party, etc. and try to start up a conversation and arrange a first date or at the very least an exchange of contact information.

Others prefer an introduction through mutual friends or family.

Some prefer online dating.

Some prefer making friends with the intention of moving towards a romantic relationship.

Even after the initial meeting, the mode of pursuing a relationship varies greatly.

Some engage it was is commonly referred to as "talking," a concept loaded with so much more meaning than simply communicating.  Roughly speaking, it means talking, texting, and hanging out as a prelude to formally dating.  It is similar to a simple friendship, expect that it is pregnant with implications of being something more.

Other prefer the casual dating approach. In this approach they go on dates with the understanding these dates may or may not be repeated and that each person might be dating other people in the same manner.  Each date is treated as a more or less isolated event.

Others skip these methods and skip directly to an exclusive dating relationship.  This is a more formal way to date and its purpose is test the strength of the relationship and determine whether or not it will culminate in a marriage.

These are, of course, an oversimplification of the ways and methods one might use to seek out their future spouse, but that is precisely my point.  There is a broad spectrum of ways to get to know someone and pursue a romantic future with him or her.  The more possibilities that exist the more opportunity there is for confusion and miscommunication.

Add the aforementioned pressure to find a spouse and settle down, plus the fear of divorce and regretted commitment and this quickly becomes a fiasco.

I have lost count of the number of times I have listened to a friend troubling over uncertainty of where they stand in a relationship. "Are we just friends or does he/she like me?"  "Is he/she busy or am I getting the brush off?" "Are we exclusive or are we only together because he/she doesn't have any options?" "Can I ask where I stand or will that make him/her feel pressured?" "If I tell him/her how I feel, will it scare him/her away?" "Am I allowing myself to be used by talking to him/her so often without any indication of a relationship on the horizon?"  "Am I using him/her to fill an emotional void while waiting for something better to come along?"

Over and over again we find ourselves troubled by uncertainty, hurt by a lack of clarity, and/or wracked with anxiety about how to proceed.

My question is, can we do better?

Many smart people have given a great deal of thought to this matter. A lot of them present a number of very good or at least appealing ideas as solutions.  But what good are these ideas if they are only adopted by a handful of individuals?

If I agree that I must demand certain behaviors and behave in a certain way, will that really be effective if the men of my acquaintance have no knowledge of this?  If a man decides to follow a specific protocol in pursuing a girl and she has different ideas, then will his resolutions be for naught?

So, what can we do?  How do we improve?  I really do think that something must be done, but I am at a loss as to what.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

IMustDecrease: Music: Entitlement, Possession, & The Gift

Check out my friend's blog!  James is an amazing musician and a great writer.

 IMustDecrease: Music: Entitlement, Possession, & The Gift: Music: Entitlement, Possession, & The Gift             Sunday’s Gospel in mass got me thinking a bit about music as...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Darkness Falling

Days were bleeding together like ink on a page in the rain. Details were fading for her who once remembered every detail. Now there were only feelings left. Pain. Loneliness. Emptiness. Abandonment. Sorrow. Longing. Desire. Fear. 

What could she do? Where could she turn?  Steeped with shadow, she was filled with shame, but more than that, those things which had led her to that point still lingered. Darkness had fallen.

One by one she had watched her dreams shatter like a delicate, crystal, tree ornament hitting a tile floor. So lovely and cherished before, now in sharp, dangerous pieces. She must let then go, but how can she? They were so treasured. Desperate to hold on, she clutches at them and they bite back at her, tearing her soft flesh. 

Poor blood-soaked dreams, now in shambles. Lost. 


Are none of her dreams safe? Will none of them come to fruition? Are they all empty promises?

And You, God? You who promise to give the desires of her heart, what will You do? 

But she resists You. You would heal her, but she is still clinging to broken dreams in her now torn flesh. She would not give them up. Like a wild animal in a painful snare, she blindly struggles against You. 

Please. No. Not these dreams. Please let me keep them. Please give them back to me, whole and beautiful as they once were. Without them, I will be forgotten and alone. I cannot bear it. Please. 

Without these, I will have nothing.  

You will have Me. 

I'm afraid. 

Do not be afraid. 

To remove the shards, will be painful, she knows, and she wants to pull away. She wants to run. 

Please. Let Me help you. You will die. 

I'm afraid. 

Trust me. 

I can't. 

She sobs. Even as the first shard is removed she stares after it with longing. That dream was precious. That dream was beautiful. 

Let it go now. 

How? I cannot forget what it was. What it could be. How do I stop holding on?

Trust me. 

It hurts, deep inside. I am so tired of this hurt. Help me. 

You must let go. Then you must let Me heal you. 

You. Will You tell my why these dreams had to be broken? 

I will give you something better.


When you are ready. 

How slow she is to heal. And even now, she looks for the shards to the lost dreams. If only she had been more careful with those dreams, would they then be hers to keep? Would they transform into beautiful reality?

Those were only illusions. What I will give you is real and beautiful beyond compare. 

But it is not easy to forget long treasured dreams. Even now she seeks to treasure their shards, cruel and treacherous. 

A dark voice whispers evil words within her. 

You will lose it all and be left all alone. This is your fate. Darkness. Loneliness. Emptiness. This is all that awaits you. 


Help me!

Come to Me!

My dreams...

She clutches once again at the stabbing fragments. 

Leave them. 

I'll have nothing. 

You shall have Me. I shall be with you. I shall protect you. Let me help you, precious one. Come to me. 

A gleam of light pierces through the darkness. A hand reaches down to save her.  [continued below]

Today, as if in answer to this post, this was read at Mass:

Romans 8:22-27
"We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will."