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

 

Look at the Birds in the Sky

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”
~ Matthew 6:25-27

spring blossoms

My sister and I used to climb the apple tree in our front yard. There was a magnificent knob jutting out of the trunk that made a convenient hand and foot hold which allowed us to hoist ourselves up into the thicket of branches. The best spot was a curve in a large branch that served as the perfect seat for a twelve year old girl. I could spend hours up in that old apple tree, just sitting and looking over the world. I’d watch the little finches who fluttered in and out of the tops of the tree. The tiny hum of bumblebees as they hovered over the white blossoms. A swish of the occasional car passing by.

Today’s scripture reading is one of my favorites, probably because it reminds me of how connected I was with nature as a kid. Everything from the squirrels that buried their nuts in the backyard, the potato bugs we used to poke (gently!), and the rhododendron bush that always bloomed in May just in time for my sisters’ birthdays. Life seemed much more uncomplicated and I didn’t need much to be content. I suppose I lived with an innate sense that I simply needed to be outside enjoying nature, and that there was great joy and beauty in that.

Today, when I see the beauty of God’s creation around me – a rainbow after the rain, dolphins playing near the pier, my succulents stretching taller – I am reminded of how amazing this world is, and how much God really does have a bigger plan in mind that any of us understand. When I think about that simple fact, I feel a sense of calm in my life, and sometimes, that’s all you need.
 
Yours truly,

a girl who dreams
 

How to Find Your Place in the World

find your place in the world
 
How to Find Your Place in the World
The year before I turned twenty-five, I experienced a “quarter-life crisis.” I had almost reached the ripe old age of a quarter of a century, and what had I done with my life? Nothing of significance I could recall. This can’t be right, I thought. I’ve wasted my life up until this point. Feeling absolutely lost in my twenties with little direction and sense of meaning, I began a search for my place in the world. Where did I belong? Why could I not find it? Why had everyone else found theirs?

I decided that I needed to finally “live life to the fullest” and stop pretending that my life was just in transition. My life was happening now, and I needed to find where I belonged. Then I could finally sit back and know I had achieved something.

In an effort to find my place in the world, a friend told me that the things that bring me the most joy, make me the most excited, and bring me passion were a clue to the path that I should pursue.

I took note of this and began to pay attention to the things that gave me a vision of joy, passion and excitement.

I started a blog as a way to chronicle the things I did each day and the joy that I experienced from them. I wanted to cultivate an appreciation for the little things in life; to pay attention to every blessing I was surrounded with. Throughout the year, I began to see how the most seemingly insignificant things brought me a sense of joy, and that happiness came from seeking life, not having it served on a silver platter.

“Happiness came from seeking life, not having it served on a silver platter.”

 
I found that what I was most attracted to was the connection I had formed with people in my life, the world we shared together, and the joy of experiencing life with a grateful heart.

Since then I continue to pay attention to what brings me joy, making the effort to understand my passions and how I am called to use those in the world.
 
If you want to find your place in the world, first ask yourself these four questions:

1. What brings you the most joy?

what brings you joy

2. What inspires and makes you the most passionate?

What inspires you- What makes you the most passionate

3. What brings your heart closer to God?

What brings your heart closer to God

4. And lastly, how can you use all those things together in your journey through life?

Your answers will be vastly different from everyone else. You may be called to live your life through a variety of ways. And don’t forget, your path will also change along the way too. Never be so set in life that you can’t see what new things lie awaiting just around the corner.

Here is the simple truth. Finding your place in the world is simply finding the path God is calling you to. But, understand that you will walk that path blindly. None of us ever really knows what our final place will be until we reach the end of that path. Until then, walking that path with faith and courage is what we are called to do. And long as we continue to say “yes” to God’s calling in our hearts, we will arrive in God’s timing. Perfect timing.

Perhaps this is not the answer that you seek. You might, like me, be impatient. You want to know your place now; you want to feel you have finally arrived. But life is never meant to be stagnant. We are capable of doing more than we ever imagine. Living life is about continually striving to be better than the day before, to grow in strength, courage, and learn to love like God loves. God gave us gifts so that we could use them, improve them, and learn new ones. God made us people with imaginations, a desire for exploration, and a thirst for adventure.

One of my most favorite prayers comes from Thomas Merton. I like it because it’s simple, honest, and shows our vulnerable side. But it also reminds us of how our faith and courage can take us far through life.

Thomas Merton’s Prayer:



My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. 

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. 

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. 

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 
If you haven’t found your place in the world yet, don’t fret. God intended it to be so. We are all of us searching deeper to find belonging and fulfillment, and one day we will, in Him.
 
Yours truly,
a girl who dreams
 
 

5 Ways to Trust in God (and Really Mean it)

bahala na

In Filipino culture, we have a saying, Bahala na, meaning, “it’s up to God.” When you encounter a situation in which you no longer have control, you shrug your shoulders, shake your head, and sigh a great, “Bahala na!” It’s up to God now!

It’s a great expression and one that I find myself using when I become so frustrated at life, or upset when things aren’t going my way. It helps me take a step back and realize that God is ultimately the one in control. Trusting in God does not mean you are confident God will bring about YOUR plan, it is about trusting that God HAS a plan and that it is wonderful (even if you don’t know it yet).

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~ Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah 29-11

That sounds great! But how does one really, “put trust in God” completely? Sometimes it might mean holding on, persevering through. Yet, other times it might mean letting go, giving something up. Often, we might think we are putting our trust in God but then still feel guided solely by our anxiety and fears.

What does it look like, exactly, to put trust in God completely? As a human being with limitations and fears that hold me back, I cannot answer that question fully. What I can offer are a few suggestions on what I’ve found helpful in developing more trust in God.

I don’t want to just say, “bahala na.” I want to really mean it.

 

how to trust god

5 Ways to trust in God (and really mean it):

1. Give Thanks

What makes your life beautiful? Who brings beauty to your life?

November is the typical time of year where everybody takes the time to remember the things they are grateful for. Cue warm fuzzy feelings. Imagine if you could do that every day, not just the holiday season. Filling your soul with a sense of gratitude and appreciation helps you to recognize the blessings you have and how God has been working in your life, even when you might not have realized it at first. Capture those moments and bask in the glow.

give thanks

2. Look Backwards

I have struggled at times with my faith and my relationship with God. I have even wrestled with belief and the existence of God. But when I look back on the events that have played out in my life, I can see how God has been a guiding hand through everything. Ever noticed the love of an elderly couple that has grown through the longevity of the relationship? When they both look back on their life shared together they can see how each supported and was supported, and it provides a deeper sense of appreciation and love for the other person. Looking back on my relationship with God is like that. It is only when I recognize how God has been moving my life in challenging but growth-filled ways I can understand the magnitude of God’s love. On days when I begin to doubt the presence of God working in my life, I look back at the ways God has brought me to where I am today and I find comfort in what I see.

3. Pray Hard

When you need a good heart-to-heart conversation or are seeking advice about a personal issue, who do you call first? A random friend on facebook that you met once? Of course not! Your call your closest, most trusted friends. And why is that? Because you have gradually built a strong relationship with them over the years and your level of trust has grown. Why wouldn’t it be the same with God? You can’t expect to give your complete trust in God when you have not even begun to develop a relationship with God. Trust then, is not something you do, but rather a result of a deep rooted faith in God and a relationship that has grown stronger over time.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

rooted tree

4. Work Hard

To some, the Filipino expression, Bahala na, takes on a negative connotation. The criticism is that the expression signifies one of laziness or apathy – an excuse to not do anything because “God is already in control.” Instead of working to change a situation for the better or finding a positive solution, the best thing is just to resign a “bahala na,” and not do anything at all. If God wanted the situation to change, God would make something happen to change it, right?

But real faith is not apathetic. While some might live life with that mentality, a majority of people express trust in God because they wholeheartedly believe in the mysterious workings of God. Trusting in God does not signify laziness nor does it mean you are calling it quits. It also doesn’t always mean sitting still. God can’t work in your life unless you are working hard in your life to do your absolute best. If you have talent, use it. If you have been given opportunities you were seeking, take them.

“If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”

~ Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily 2013

5. Play Hard

Remember to relax and enjoy life too. Trusting in God doesn’t mean you live life with sombre faces. Find joy in laughter. Appreciate the genuineness of a friendship. Seek out the presence of a beloved a family member. Take inspiration from nature and enjoy the beauty of creation that God gave us.

Accepting that you can’t always control everything in your life is a good thing. Sometimes you do need to just sit still and let God work in your life.

happiness

Appreciate blessings, recognize how God has been working in your life, build your relationship stronger, work to the best of your ability, and don’t forget to enjoy the gifts God has given you. Have patience that God’s awesome plan for you will be revealed slowly over time.

Bahala na!

 

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

This article was originally posted in the Words of Witness Blog

 

Am I Good Enough?

am i good enough

I used to have a guitar student who could play a mean improv rock solo. His fingers slid up and down the fretboard, masterfully plucking out a melody that always evoked a few dropped jaws and a whole lot of awestruck stares from onlookers. He’d then finish abruptly as if suddenly self conscious about his playing and look up at me with his intense brown eyes, silently asking for confirmation. “Had I done a good job?” his eyes asked me in that brief flicker of a moment.

“Am I good enough?”

Despite how successful or talented we are, all of us have struggled with the feelings of inadequacy – not doing enough, giving enough, praying enough, not talented enough, beautiful enough, likable enough.

Our yearning to aspire for greatness, to better ourselves, and achieve our dreams and goals in life can sometimes bring us to the brink of a large canyon we find we are unable to leap over. Our ambition suddenly transforms into weakness, incompetence, inadequacy. We find ourselves lacking and our hearts ache with that realization. On days like that, we allow our minds to swarm with distorted ideas and beliefs of the measure of our abilities.

“I will never be good enough to do that.”

“I’m not pretty enough for a guy to like me.”

“I’m out of her league.”

“I’m not smart enough to apply to the school I want to.”

“I don’t have enough experience to get that job.”

“I don’t have the guts to do that.”

“I haven’t gotten to where I expected to be in life.”

These feelings of not being good enough can stem from outside influences – societal pressures, family expectations, comments from friends, even strangers – but most often, they come from within. We constantly compare ourselves to others. We fall short of our own expectations. We focus on what we haven’t done; we allow our failures to define us. We look over at the next person and think, “I’m not like them. Look how amazing and successful they are. Why can I not be more like them?”

 

Enough, friends. Enough.

 

The fact is, you are not like that person because you are not that person. You are YOU. You have different strengths and talents that were meant to be used by you alone. You are a child of God and you exist for a very specific reason. You were made in God’s image; you were created by the same artist who painted golden sunsets and fashioned delicate flower petals. You are God’s beloved.

sunset god's beloved

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” ~ Job 33:4

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ~ Jeremiah 1:5

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” ~ Psalms 139:13-14

god's beloved

Don’t allow yourself to accept the idea that you are not good enough, for you have been carefully crafted into the person you are. God will continue to lead you to discover more about who you were meant to be and the path God is calling you towards. One of my favorite books, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, written by Fr. James Martin, speaks of vocation and discernment in life. Who are we called to be? Where is God leading us? How do we use our strengths and abilities to express God’s love and live in a more engaged and fulfilling way? Fr. James explains it simply:

“Each of us is called to a unique vocation in life, based on the desires that God plants within us, as well as our talents skills, and personalities…That means letting go of the wish to become someone else and remembering that your own vocation – not someone else’s – is the path to happiness. You don’t need to use anyone else’s map to heaven, because God has already placed within your soul all the directions you need.”

When we start focusing on what we know to be true to our self and our own unique strengths, we instill in ourselves the power to move with forward momentum. Despite our human limitations and weaknesses, we have the capability to persevere and triumph over our personal obstacles and challenges. No matter how inadequate we may feel at times, God is our cheerleader, inviting us to see just how wonderfully made and delightful a person we have grown to be. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of focusing on what we can do in the moment, to do our best with whatever we have and to not be afraid to use the gifts we’ve been given.

you are loved

What if I don’t know what my strengths are? What if I’m not talented at anything?

If you don’t know your own strengths and limitations, now is the perfect time to do a little personal reflection. Maybe go on a retreat, ask your friends and family for feedback, or spend some time alone to discover what is truly unique about YOU. If you think you are not talented at anything, YOU ARE WRONG. Everyone has gifts and talents and it is our life goal to discover and utilize those gifts.

“A rough and unshapen log has no idea that it can be made into a statue that will be considered a masterpiece, but the carver sees what can be done with it. So many…do not understand that God can mold them into saints, until they put themselves into the hands of that almighty Artisan.” ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ultimately, when we stop comparing ourselves to others and start focusing on what God is calling us to, we refuse to be defined by others’ standards of success. Understanding and following the path God is calling each of us towards brings us to a more satisfying and fulfilling way of living. God knows exactly what we can excel best at and calls us to use those strengths. Start with what you know, build on your strengths, strive for what makes you feel alive, and let God do the rest.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson

 

My friends, you are God’s beloved. You are more than good enough.

 

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

**This article was originally posted on the Words of Witness Blog.

Feeling Stuck? – Finding Freedom in the Stillness

live life to the fullest
 
I’m the type of person that if the world tells me I can’t do something, I prove to the world that I can.
 
“Your asthma might make it difficult for you to do strenuous exercise…”
“HA! I’m going to run every day.”

“You wouldn’t be able to do that, you’re shy…”
“HA! Just watch me.”
 
I’ve spent my entire life in continuous momentum – planning, doing, pushing, striving, working extra hard for what I want. Trying to overcome obstacles. Triumphing over challenges. When I encountered a, “No,” I pushed harder. Don’t take no for an answer. Inactivity is considered weakness. Stillness is being lazy.

And then I began to encounter periods in my life of suffocating inactivity and immobility in which I could not run away from. It was completely out of my control. Why won’t this project get off the ground faster? Why can’t I get to where I want to be in life? Why isn’t it happening when I want it to? Why am I the only one still behind in life?

I began to realize that the insane amount of energy and work I invested in my dreams and goals was not a guarantee of immediate success. I was not always going to be in control of everything that happened in my life and I needed to learn that it was ok to simply sit and wait in the stillness. To be patient. I am not always good at being patient.

God is the friend of silence

Why Do We Avoid Stillness?

Sometimes it feels like the world values most those who are constantly busy, constantly achieving success, and doing it very quickly. We seem to have forgotten about the principle of long-term, careful, and diligent work. What ever happened to slow and steady wins the race? Somewhere along the way we have learned to devalue stillness; we feel uncomfortable in silence.

 

“God is the friend of silence. Trees, flowers, grass grow in silence. See the stars, moon, and sun, how they move in silence.” ~ Mother Teresa

 
Sometimes inaction – I prefer to think of it as resting and contemplating – is just as important as action. Sitting in stillness doesn’t mean that you give up on your dreams or goals. It just means you recognize that not everything in your life can be controlled. And there is freedom in accepting that – freedom to allow God to work in your life in unexpected ways.
 

“Be still, and know that I am God! ~ Psalm 46:10

 
Silence and stillness provide a way for your heart to become more receptive and open to God speaking to you. Those moments can help you reassess where you are and where you’re headed. As your limits are tested, you will grow and be strengthened in God’s presence, realizing that you are capable of much more than you thought possible.

I still believe in working hard for what you want. I affirm the fact that you must create the life you want to live. But, now I understand that is a life-long mission. Those who achieve incredible things in life have a passion that does not waver; they understand that it could take years, possibly an entire lifetime to achieve their goal. But their drive motivates them to continue on despite what feels like failure, setbacks, and people telling them that what they’re doing is a waste of time. They have a lifelong calling and work everyday towards that.
 

“A calling is a lifelong journey.”

 
St Ignatius lifelong calling

Lately I have taken to carrying good ole Saint Ignatius with me while I do my work. He did amazing things in his life (uh, like starting the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits order), but it didn’t happen quickly. He was disappointed when he wasn’t able to accomplish what he had originally thought he was supposed to. But throughout his life he continued to simply work on serving Christ, being a man for others, sticking true to his convictions despite setbacks and obstacles. I use that as a reminder to myself that a calling is a lifelong journey. I get impatient at waiting. I know my calling but I don’t know all the next steps to get where I need to be. I want to do something now. I want to take action. But I have to be reminded that hasty actions are not what God asks of us. God wants us to be educated, to understand, to listen, to be patient and persevere. To simply be still in the silence; to be in the presence of God. These are the things I want to be better at.
 
Yours truly,
a girl who dreams