God Says Hello

I like to pull meaning out of everything. There is inspiration to be found all around me, whether it is in my morning coffee, a new book, a good conversation with a friend, or even a neighbor’s garden.

So why is it that this week when I was trying so hard to think of something great to say, I only stared at the blank page? Sometimes it seems like I try a little too hard to say something meaningful, and therefore I completely miss the point. I was spending too much time looking for something “important sounding” (google searching, reading other blogs, asking people what they had found inspirational lately) that I almost completely missed the view from my drive home. The city lights reflecting on the water, moonlight, stars, peacefulness. A little burst of joy poked at me inside. I felt as if God was speaking to me through that short glimpse of the night. As if God was saying, “hello.” That’s it. Plain and simple. Nothing showy or fancy or “important sounding.” Simply a moment where I could connect with God in my daily urban life.

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

Esther’s Prayer

A few weeks ago, one of the daily readings was about the story of Esther. I was so excited to see that because Esther is probably one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. Her story has always stuck with me because I felt that she was a strong woman who was strong in her faith. I’ve always admired her relationship with God and even once tried to imitate her by taking three days for prayer before making a big life decision.

However, reading the story for the first time in awhile, I saw it in a new light:

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”
(Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25)

I could see just how much anguish she was in and how fervently she prayed. That last line, “turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness,“ really got to me. Instead of just praying for happiness, she also prayed for wholeness. Without wholeness, happiness becomes fleeting. Wholeness is what we really want. Wholeness makes us complete.

During Mass this morning I thought about this. I thought about the craziness my life had been lately. I thought about the ups and the downs. Sometimes it seemed like a lot of downs. I knew that I needed to pray for wholeness a lot more than happiness.

“Lord, make me whole,” I prayed. “Make me whole.”

 

Snowboarding: Fun…Until it isn’t

Looking back, my recent blog reflections seem to dwell on the painful slowness of life, of not getting to where I want to be, of being immobile (in the figurative sense) and feeling frustrated at that.

Well, it seems that life can be funny sometimes. Now, I am literally immobile (in the physical sense). Well, not totally immobile. I can move for sure. I guess you could say I have been forced into an incredibly slow pace of life. You see, I broke my wrist while snowboarding.

The bone that was fractured is connected to my elbow so they put me in a cast that covers all the way up my arm. As expected, it takes me a little bit longer to do my daily activities. Washing my hair, one hour. Putting on clothes, ten minutes. Opening a jar of peanut butter, five minutes (there was no one around!). Typing with one hand? Managing it.

Given this ironic situation – being frustrated with immobility and then getting slowed down even more by an injury – I was tempted to say that this was God’s way of really teaching me a lesson. Patience? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Isn’t that what people tend to say when something bad happens? That God is testing us? Or what about when something good has happened? We usually respond with how God has blessed us.

“I just got a raise! God has blessed me.”

“I’ve been unemployed for six months. God must be testing me.”

I admit, I usually say things like this without really thinking about the meaning behind it. It’s easy to say God blessed me because I got something nice, but what about someone else who doesn’t have much? Does God not want to bless them? Or when I’m going through a hard time I might say God is just testing me. But what about those for whom their whole life is a constant struggle? Does God really not care and just keep sending hardship after hardship as if they just don’t seem to “learn the lesson”?

The question of the day is, “How do I/you/we view God?”

Are we putting God in a box? Is God an ATM machine who gives us nice things? Is God a mean God who sends painful struggles our way just to teach us a lesson?

Putting God in a box is comfortable. And we like having faith that is comfortable. We know what to expect, we have an explanation for everything. But God does not live in a box, nor is waiting at our command holding our “Dear God, can I please have___” lists. As the Narnians in C.S Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe describe it, “He’s not a tame lion.” God is simply waiting, waiting for us to say, “Yes.” Yes to God’s plan, yes to God’s love, yes to an open heart.

It is life itself that is full of hardship and we derive lessons from our experiences, drawing on God for strength to get through it all. Our true blessings come from our relationship as being God’s beloved. The things that bring us joy help us experience our world more fully, a world which God created with love. We are blessed because we are loved by God, knowing that whatever life brings, God will give us strength, courage, wisdom, acceptance, peace, or whatever it is we need to get through the day.

God calls us beyond comfort. God challenges us to be better people. God longs for us to grow deeper in our faith. Putting God in a box is easy, but our faith requires more than just “easy.”

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

 

Living Honestly, Living with Positivity

Living Honestly
Living in relationship with others helps us to live (if we allow it) more honestly and humbly. Other people reflect back to us aspects of ourselves we might not have realized before. By seeing that reflection, it helps me to examine and reflect on how I might be perceived by others. Being in a long-term relationship, for example has shown me so many things about myself I had never noticed before. Some of them silly or trivial – I had never realized, for example, how my cooking can sometimes resemble the swedish chef, or the fact that constantly tripping over things or dropping things is not actually normal for the average person (the struggle is real). But there are serious things I’ve learned as well. Like how I can no longer run away from my cranky self, my bad moods, and pretend that they don’t exist. I have to face them head on and learn how to ask for support, time by myself, or just a nice big hug. I have learned that my positivity or negativity can affect how others see me. I have learned much about myself through the eyes of others.

Living with Positivity
With that said, this Lent I have decided to adjust my attitude towards a more positive one. It doesn’t mean I hope to be happy dappy and chipper everyday. It simply means that even on tough days I am trying to not dwell on things I cannot control and to put a positive spin on the situation.

I realized this morning that in order for me to cultivate a truly positive spirit, I must first recognize and show gratitude for the many blessings in my life that bring joy, and I must also better learn the Ignatian spiritual practice of detachment. If I can get those two things down, I will make it.

Detachment, despite the awkward soundingness (almost like cold and calculated) of the word, actually just means that one refuses to attach oneself to any object, person, idea, etc. as their ultimate means of happiness. Things happen in life. One minute you’re running happily through the neighborhood, the next thing you know, your phone slaps on the cement sidewalk. Shattered screen (yes, this did actually happen to me this weekend). A person who practices detachment would be able to accept that physical objects come and go and that happiness does not come from phones. Instead, our happiness is rooted in our faith and relationship with God. Detachment sets you free, allowing you to pass through life unafraid of what might happen, what might break, what you might lose and accept that all things pass away. But no one can take away your attitude in life, or your love for God.

Maintaining positivity starts with being grateful for all the things in life I have been given and, really, how wonderful they are. Friendships, warm beds, the ability to go to college, living in eternal sunshine, food in the refrigerator, a refrigerator (I have gone without one before, it’s not easy), a loving boyfriend, a fun family, the list goes on. The more I can recognize what I already have, the more I can see how blessed my life is, and to not be impatient when I don’t get what I want right now. I can sit back and know that things will come together in time, and that even if they don’t, or if they come and then leave again, my happiness will not be dependent on any of these things.

My dear friends, pray for me to cultivate a joyous spirit of positivity through Ignatian detachment and a grateful heart this Lenten season.

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

 

Finding God in the Garden

There is something about springtime that inspires me to buy, sometimes impulsively, plants and flowers. Something wells up inside of me that makes me want to grow things, to expand my apartment garden and crowd my living room.

When I was in elementary school, our teacher taught us how to grow a plant from a bean and a plastic cup. Excited about the possibilities that this opened up for me, I repeated this experiment at home, rallying my siblings together to have bean plant races for whose bean could sprout and grow the tallest.

I remember one February receiving a mini sunflower growing kit for my birthday. After planting the tiny black seeds, the window sill became my daily sitting spot as I waited in anticipation of signs for green buds to sprout. When they finally did, they transformed into sturdy stalks that produced several flowers, joy emitting from their delicate yellow leaves. In the years following, planting my own garden became an absorbing hobby as I carefully planned and diagramed my garden, purchasing seeds, and spending day after day in my own little corner of the yard.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

— May Sarton

That desire for planting, growing, enjoying the beauty of flowers I enjoyed as a child has never left me. Just today I found myself procrastinating on school work because I had to plant several succulent starters I had propagated from older plants. I learned this trick from Pinterest and discovered with glee that, yes indeed, roots had sprouted from the leaves I had plucked.

I have sometimes viewed my springtime planting frenzy as my own little whimsical fancy, and yet, as I think more about it, growing plants is like creating art. I can’t not make art in some form or other. This is impossible for me. And without a garden of my own, I still need to create, to grow, to bring new life into my daily routine.

There is something spiritual about creating something from nothing. I believe that God instilled in all of us a desire for creating, building, growing, not just in nature but in ourselves and in our lives. The imprint of God’s creation lies in the desire for education, to expand one’s mind. Or its imprint can be found in the desire to meet someone new and to invest in that slow process that will one day lead to a blossoming friendship. God is a God of creation, and every day we have the opportunity to discover more fully God’s imprint in our lives – what God is calling us to create, nurture, and grow.

What is blossoming in your life right now? What are you thinking of planting? How will you nurture it?

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

 

Traffic is God’s Way of Telling Me to Slow Down

Traffic is God’s way of telling me to slow down, calm down, and stop freaking out at everything that is completely out of control in my life.

My drive to work is around twenty minutes (eleven minutes on a good day according to google) and while it is nothing painful to drive through, I still find anxiety welling up inside of me as I maneuver through traffic. Everything about rush hour makes me tense and, more often than not, angry at random strangers.

HONKKKKKK! Yeah, that’s right buddy. Shouldn’t have cut into my lane so close!

HELLOOO! Are you gonna block me or what?!

Why is this grandma car driving so slow?! Nothing is worse than the grandma car that drives 40 mph in the middle lane. MOVE OVER lady!

Why are there so many cars out today? I have places to be!!!

So, you see, traffic can make me a little cranky at times. I can’t help it if there are so many uneducated and or/oblivious drivers in California.

But, you know the worst thing about traffic is? We always think that other drivers on the road are the cause of traffic, but as it turns out, we are just as guilty. You see, if I choose to not get in my car each day, there would be one less car on the road. So yes, we all cause traffic to some degree.

I am a contributor of traffic jams.

It is frustrating to admit that in some ways, because although I have no control over what others do, I have control over myself, over my own actions and behavior. But maybe sometimes, I just don’t want to admit that. Maybe I prefer to think that life’s problems come from someone other than myself.

Sometimes my problems are caused by my own frustrations of immobility. I hate being still, motionless, out of control. I prefer the open road, the constant steady pressure of the accelerator, the freedom of space to move forward. I crave momentum.

Stop. Slow down.

How often do I stop to think that my frustrations don’t have to be frustrations? I simply need to adjust my expectations, my attitude towards myself and others, and accept the lack of control. God tries to tell me this on my commute everyday, but I guess I just don’t listen. Accepting immobility is easier said than done, but there is a peace in it and I am trying to remind myself.

Every morning when I take the on-ramp to the I-8, I can choose to face life with annoyance and anxiety, or I can choose to turn the music up, think about all the blessings in my life and just sit with that for a while. Sit with God in my car, with good music, and forget about all those other drivers. Because in the end, I choose my own attitude, I choose my own happiness.

 

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams