I Choose All!

Working with the poor and writing have been playing a game of tug of war with my heart.  But, in my recent hours of combing through job openings, I came across something illuminating.

(WRITER) ARTIST IN-RESIDENCE

Yale-New Haven Hospital

JOB SUMMARY

Develop, implement and adapt creative writing and spoken word activities for a diverse pediatric patient population in an acute healthcare setting. Facilitate group or individual sessions that engage children of all ages, family members or staff in self-expression through poetry, narrative, theatrical writing and performance to support the healing process. Share patient work through performance and publication.

Wait…I don’t have to choose?? Once again, God has reminded me that He wants to fulfill all of my desires, and put them in my heart for a reason.

Then, this afternoon I really discovered that something I thought only existed in my imagination is a really thing, that many writers do: running writing workshops with disadvantaged populations.

My teenage self would say: duh!  This is why art and music therapy works – because self-expression is an effective form of therapy.  Helping people learn to express themselves gives them power and can even help lift people out of poverty.

Here’s another example of an organization that runs these sorts of workshops: http://nywriterscoalition.org

I made some great connections today and can’t wait to see where they take me!

 

A Beautiful Waste

“What is he?” murmurs one gray shadow of my forefathers to another.  “A writer of storybooks! What kind of a business in life, – what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation, – may that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!”

-The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ironically, I was introduced to the show “Call the Midwife” while in the convent.  Now that I have some time on my hands I’ve watching some more of the episodes.  I’ve noticed that some of the characters struggle with something that I do as well (and I suspect most of you): wanting to be useful.  Through aging or illness, they are afraid of not being able to do what they used to, and therefore being of less value.

Over the past few years this desire has been purified but it is still a nagging thought: am I doing something worthwhile?  Will I live up to these ridiculous expectations I have set for myself?

I came face to face with this need to be “useful” in religious life – which was perhaps the Lord’s plan all along.  What good could it do the world to do laundry, sell Altar Bread and pray – oh prayer is what always seems like the most useless thing.  What good does prayer do?

But religious are not the first and are certainly far from being the last to be accused of wasting their lives.

Remember this story?

b43d34c7074dc71956866ede91db4436_mary-of-bethany-anoints-jesus-perfume-mary-jesus-feet-clipart-pictures-perfume_401-321

Now when Jesus was at  Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

When I was in college I switched my major from English to Social Work, because I thought I should do something more “practical” to help people.  Partially through physical illness, I was stripped of my desire to be “useful” in the convent and as the Lord uncovered my eyes to see my own beauty, the desire to write re-awoke in me like a living fire.  Poverty fosters creativity and I’ve done my best writing in the past four years, showing me what I am capable of.

So now God is calling me to waste my life in a different way and I have a feeling I won’t be leaving poverty behind!

 

Waiting on the World…at the DMV

Dear Sir, what’s your story?

I left the golden island for streets of gold.  I left the warm beach for cold concrete.  I left hopelessness for a chance at happiness.  I left empty pockets and took a chance with these empty hands.  Family?  I left a daughter and a little one on the way.  I came to make it.  I came to the land of dreams.  I came again and again just like you.  Your eye?  I didn’t want to ask.  Vision’s perfect – 20/20 times two.

I’m Back!

My head is cold.  I have an irresistible urge to wear outrageous color combinations.

I gave up being a nun for Lent.  More accurately, God led me into the desert and to follow His crazy plans!  St. Faustina called Jesus “the divine madman” and now I know why!  He will stop at nothing, absolutely nothing, to recreate us in His image, to bring about His plan for our lives, which will ultimately bring us life to the full and blissful union with Him in heaven.  The Divine Bridegroom will stop at nothing to win His Bride and be united with her forever.

For the past three years I have been in formation with the TOR Sisters, as most of you know.  God made it clear that He is calling me elsewhere, so I came back home recently.  I’ll write more about that experience and my time there as I process it.  I’m not sure if anyone even still reads this blog, but if you do hello again!  Thanks for sticking with me.

P.S.  Have pen, will write!  I am looking for a job and any writing opportunities.

Groanings of the Spirit

Grasping at the Apple

Gaping with Lust

Growing in Indifference

Grasping
Gaping
Growing
 

Gasping with Awe

Gaping at His Beauty

Growing in Love

Gasping
Gaping
Growing
 

Grasping at the Unknown

Grappling with Unanswered Questions

Groaning with Understanding

Grasping
Grappling
Groaning
 
 

A Heart Burning with Love

The Great Lover looked upon His beloved with intense longing.  In fact His longing burned so intensely it was a living flame. He longed to ignite the cold embers of her heart and drew her close with great tenderness.

The Great Deceiver noticed His gaze and in turn, also looked on her with great longing.  He also longed to make her heart his own.

This beloved heart was ignorant of the intense gaze of Love trained upon her at all times.  She longed for a heart on fire with Love.  She longed with inexpressible groanings for some unnamed thing.  Her heart remained cold despite her every effort.

One night, the Great Lover called out in the only way He knew how – in the language of the Heart.  Knowing the bitter pain of rejection, having experienced it over and over, He once again exposed Himself.  In an act of desperation, He exposed His Heart to His beloved.  She saw it, brilliant and golden – she caught a glimpse of the Great Lover.

Even this glimpse was too much for her.  She hid her face from His beauty, suddenly aware of her drab and dark heart, so pitiful next to this glorious flame.   In spite of this, she secretly longed for another glimpse of the Great Lover and searched far and wide for Him.  The Great Deceiver, who was never far, saw his chance.  He tempted her with counterfeit Love – just enough like the Real Love to trick her, but not intense enough to make her face the state of her heart.  He whispered to her in the night that she would never find Him whom she Loved.  She began to believe the lies – that He had seen her heart and rejected it, because of its ugliness.

The Great Lover continued to pursue His beloved gently and tenderly, whispering to her and calling her name.  She forgot how to listen and began to fall into despair.

The ember of her heart colder than ever, she lay broken and alone.  Then she remembered what He had done in a desperate attempt to show her Love – how He had captivated her.  Moved beyond her fear by her Love for Him, she gave to Him what she had so abused – her heart, her very self, blackened beyond recognition.  Trembling, she held it out, no more than a lump of charcoal.  He took it, caressing it gently in the palm of His hand, until it began to glow faintly.  She wept, thinking there could be no greater gift than what He had just done – to revive her heart and set it aflame with Love.

To her surprise He did not give it back.  Before she could protest, an exchange was made.  The Love now inside of her was almost too much to handle – it could not be contained and overflowed the tiny space where her own heart had dwelt.  She thought the flames would consume her as they filled her to the point of ecstasy.

He proclaimed with great joy, “It is Finished”

Praying with Merton

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.

Yet, my heart is joyous. ie possessing the qualities of, full of – joy

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

But that it will pass by the place of the skull.Though it may require fasting, it will end in feasting.

Nor do I really know myself,

Is that not what this road is really about?  You, Lord, knew me in the womb.

and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

Well, that’s terrifying.  Jesus help me want what you want.

 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

Like children, we bring seemingly meaningless trinkets to lay at your feet.

Our earnest desire inflames your heart with love.

 
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though 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.

My Hope is in you alone. Hope – expectant desire.  This road of fasting will end with feasting.

Some Perspective and a Promise

The internet can be an overwhelming place  and an unfortune breeding ground for attention seeking.  I’ve been searching its depths the last couple of days for tips on publicizing this blog and making it more popular.  With everyone and their sister blogging these days, how do bloggers like BadCatholic and Mark Shea make it on lists of top Catholic bloggers?

Then I realized: it doesn’t matter.

The wonderful and hard thing about writing is its one of those ministries with hardly any visible reward.  Once in a while I get some feedback from my readers, but most of the time I have no idea how many hearts I am touching, or in what ways.  The lord knows this is really good for curbing my pride.

The important thing is for me to just keep writing, so I’m making that my Lenten commitment.  Since the baby I’m now watching sleeps quite a bit, I’ll have more free time and am determined to use that productively.

I’m asking you all to hold me accountable and gently demand more posts.  If there’s something specific you would like me to write about, I would love to know!

Defying Labels in Favor of Our True Selves

Being a writer, I pay attention to words a lot and I think how we say things is important.  One area I’ve especially been sensitive to is that of labeling ourselves and talking about who we are.  A few years ago my Dad pointed out that we are human beings, not human doings.  This has always seemed an important distinction to me and is a lesson that has been repeated by many wise people: who we are is more important than what we do.

A very strange phenomenon has taken over our present age: we are defined by what we do or uncontrollable conditions, rather than who we are.  As far as I can tell, this problem is perpetuated by the inadequacies of the English language.

This was brought to my attention when we talked about person first language in one of my social work classes.  We tend to label people, such as, he is handicapped, she is blind, etc.  My teacher pointed out that it is much more respectful to say something like, a person with a disability.  You might roll your eyes and chalk this up to political correctness, but stay with me for a little longer.  Really think about what I’m saying.  We say someone is handicapped, we are saying that handicap is what defines that person.  We are people, first, with equal natural dignity based solely on that fact.  So in this case, the problem is that people are defined by an uncontrollable condition.  I’d like to connect this with how we think of people with homosexual tendencies (see what I did there?)

We are in the habit of saying he/she is gay.  Speaking this way defines a person completely based on which gender he/she is sexually attracted to.  As soon as we label people as “gay” we make all kinds of assumptions about them.  It works the opposite way too – we label people with certain characteristics as “gay.”  This seems like a major problem to me and undermines the human dignity inherent in all people.  C’mon people, aren’t we hip youngsters supposed to defy labels?? (Secretly we can’t survive without them).

Another area that I think this problem comes into play is the discussion of men’s and women’s roles.  When people advocate for equality between the sexes, they often discuss the fact that women should be able to do the same things as men.  They don’t realize that the problem is deeper than this and the solution lies at the root of who we are.  We need to ensure that the human dignity and freedom of all people is equally respected.  As I have discussed before, true freedom is found in being who you are, not in the things you do.  Although people don’t want to hear it, we really need to be discussing how to help men and women be true to their natures, not what each sex should or should not be doing.

I’m continually trying to recenter my focus on who I am, not what I do.  For example, I’ll ask God who he wants me to become, not what he wants me to do.  And in everything I do, I discern how it is helping me become the person God is calling me to be.

When God is asked who he is his answer is simply “I AM.”  In tomorrow’s gospel reading from John, the crowd asks Jesus to perform a miracle; instead he tells them who he is: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

“Bloom Where You’re Planted”: Summer in DC!!

The other day I was thinking about the fact that this time last year I was making my final preparations to go to Tanzania. I can’t believe it has been a year already!

So you’re probably wondering what adventure I’m planning for this summer because obviously I can’t stay at home for an entire summer – my missionary spirit just simply won’t allow it. This past year I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about where God needs me to be right now. In the past year I’ve also had two people whom I admire tell me to “bloom where I’m planted”.

When I first returned from Tanzania I missed it so much that sometimes I didn’t want to think or talk about it. I felt like that was where I was supposed to be and couldn’t understand what God could possibly want me to do here in the States. It took me a while but I’ve finally begun taking that advice to heart and have realized that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

So this summer I will not be headed to any exotic foreign places. Rather, I will be spending my time in the heart of our nation, Washington D.C. Although its not Africa, I am extremely excited for this opportunity and all that I will learn there.

About two years ago I began looking into a program called The Washington Center, which combines an internship and academics into one incredible and life changing experience. Finally, I decided that this summer was the right time to participate in it. If I can’t live in a foreign country, my dream has always been to work in Washington D.C., where I can make a real difference in the lives of the poor nationally and internationally through organizations like the United Nations or USAID (United States Agency for International Development). This program will give me the chance to get my foot in the door.

The best part of this opportunity is where I’ll be interning…the Peace Corps! I was already planning on applying to join the Peace Corps after graduation and when they contacted me about an interview for an internship I nearly fell out of my chair. This could not have worked out more perfectly. Oddly enough, I will not be doing social work tasks, but rather research and writing. Many of you know that I’ve been struggling to figure out how my passion for writing fits into what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Anyway, I’ll be working with a program the Peace Corps runs called World Wise Schools. I had never heard of it before but its a neat program which provides an important service. Basically, they gather and organize information about other countries for teachers to use when teaching their students about countries around the world. As our world becomes more connected, it is more important than ever to be culturally competent and this program helps make students more aware of the world around them. Teachers can also request to have their class correspond with a current Peace Corps volunteer and their students can write letters to the volunteer with questions about their country. Returned volunteers also visit classes to talk about their experiences. The World Wise Schools not only creates cultural awareness but also promotes volunteerism. Since these are two things I am passionate about, I think it will be the perfect fit for me!

Going along with the writing theme, I’ll be taking a research and writing class, in which I’ll be concentrating on a research project of my choice throughout the summer. It’ll be a great chance to delve into something I’m passionate about.

As part of this program I also have to participate in a leadership forum, which is a kind of seminar that ensures the students make the most of their internships. We’ll work on career preparation, have speakers and other academic activities to supplement our internships.

So besides the incredible program itself just the fact that I’ll be in DC is amazing. There’s so much history and culture contained in one city, I know that there will be something new to discover every day. I’ve already started looking up lists like free things to do in DC and must see sights. I can’t wait to geek out at the Library of Congress and explore the Smithsonian.

From reading the blogs of current participants (found here) I know that this will be an incredible experience. I also now know that DC is really expensive so my skills for living frugally will really be tested… Like most academic programs this costs a considerable chunk of change so I’ll already be low on cash. However, I know that it will be more than worth it and the experience I will gain will pay off in the   future.

I’m looking forward to meeting new people, especially those from other countries, (apparently there’s a lot of foreign students) and living on my own for a few months. This summer will definitely be a taste of the real world and I expect it to be oh so sweet.