Do You Really HAVE TO Vote?

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I’ve been quiet about the election because I don’t like politics. I’m what you would call a swing voter. Back when I was in college, I voted for Obama because I blindly believed in what he was promising the American people. Four years later, voted Republican because I didn’t agree with Obama’s policies.

Now here I am again four years later at another Presidential election. Voting for the lesser of two evils is sadly not an option for me anymore.

I don’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I never have and I never will.

Something I’ve been noticing since middle school is that whenever the current political sphere is undesirable, people from Hollywood start doing public service announcements that compel people to vote. You might remember the Vote or Die campaign during the 2004 elections or Lena Dunham’s infamous viral video during the 2012 presidential election.

Joss Whedon has now contributed to the current zeitgeist with this anti-Trump video:

Even the cast of Hamilton is getting on this:

It’s just too bad that Whedon and Lin-Manuel Miranda have also thrown their hats into Clinton’s ring. Bless your hearts, both of you. I love you, but I have to disagree here.

It’s gotten to the point that Blimey Cow has parodied the pro-voting bandwagon:

The problem with all the appeals to get people to vote is that it comes off sounding like voting is mandatory. I understand that voting is a necessity, but I also believe in preserving the right to opt out of voting for a few reasons, most of which are talked about in this awesome video:

So what’s my solution? If you really want to vote, do research on third parties. Look into the Libertarian Party or the American Solidarity Party. Look into any other party that’s not covered by the mainstream media. Inform yourself so that you don’t just vote blindly.

And before you start telling me that voting for a third party will just be a wasted vote, there are a couple of articles that say otherwise. There’s also a history of third party presidential nominees who were able to capture a considerable amount of votes. Not to mention that Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt represented what were considered third parties during the time of their elections. Lincoln can be considered the first Republican and Roosevelt was from the Bull Moose party.

If you really don’t want to vote, you don’t have to, at least when it comes to choosing the next President. We live in a country where we have the right to refuse things as a form of protest. When this election is over, the people will end up complaining about the President no matter who wins. You can rest easy knowing you refused to give your vote to them. You can still vote for candidates you feel would be acceptable, such as Senators, Representatives, and people who will run your state and city. Keep up with local issues as well. Something I learned in my sociology class is that we can’t expect the President to fix our problems. Voting local (on a state-wide and city level) has a better impact on changing our everyday lives than who we pick to run our country.

In the end, I hope that no matter what you do, your decision will be an informed and wise one.

Pray to St. Jude, St. Rita, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception for our country.

Uninvited's Pros and Cons: A Book Review

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I was definitely intrigued when I heard about Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. As someone who’s experienced rejection more times than I can count, I felt drawn to this book like a bee to honey. After reading through the book, I have to say that as a whole, there are a great many blessings that can be gained from reading it.

Pros

I related to most of the stories shared here. There’s an overall sense of reassurance throughout the book that would definitely comfort the reader like chocolate after a breakup. The fist chapter invites the reader to be honest with themselves, which is always a great first step when dealing with rejection. I loved the chapters that ended with prayers. The prayers are sincere petition prayers that anyone can relate to and pray when they are dealing with the burdens of rejection and heartbreak.

Lysa also delves into what makes rejection hurt so much: So many people have trust issues, emotional insecurity, and rejection shakes us out of the safety net that we make for ourselves. The overall theme of this book is to root our trust in God and find that emotional security with him. I really need to introduce her to Saint Faustina because Faustina is one of the best examples of trusting in Jesus in spite of everything else.

The best thing about this book is that it teaches the reader that we can all learn from rejection. Each experience we have from rejection can teach us something for the future for whenever we deal with rejection again or point us towards something that leads us to acceptance. The book embraces the virtue of humility really well. Not only does this book help give the reader assurance when it comes to dealing with rejection, but it also provides an opportunity for the reader to improve on themselves with sections on self-assessment.

Cons

One major con was something I found in the 2nd chapter. There’s a section that quotes a few verses and brings attention to the promises within those verses, tying them around a common theme:

When we abide, delight, and dwell in Him, he then places within us desires that line up with His best desire for us.

Yes, that I can agree with. When we spend time with God, our hearts are made more like His. However, I did not agree with the sentence that followed afterwards:

Therefore, He can give us whatever we ask, because we will only want what’s consistent with His best.

Um. No. That’s not how it works. God can’t just give us whatever we ask because we think it will be consistent with His best. His best is not always what we want. With every Our Father, we pray “Thy will be done.”

I also didn’t relate to the story about the lady in the gym that Lysa was convinced hated her. Granted, I’m usually someone who always thinks the best of most people. I loved the testimonies shared in the book, but I seriously wanted this book to go deeper than just the everyday rejections we deal with.

It’s so sad that Protestants often forego to look into the lives of the saints because I can list five saints right off the bat who suffered through rejection and still found their true purpose in Christ:

  • Saint Gemma Galgani: rejected from the Passionists because of her spinal health issues, yet received stigmata and fought many battles against Satan.
  • Saint Joseph of Cupertino: seen as stupid and dumb because he was in constant awe at anything relating to Jesus and the church. Later was given the gift of flight and is the patron saint of test-takers.
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: Chose a religious order that wasn’t trendy and his family didn’t support him going into religious life. He’s now regarded as a Doctor of the Church and his writings are worth their weight in gold.
  • Saint Faustina: Social outcast, even amongst her fellow sisters, and yet her devotion to Divine Mercy is now one of the most popular and wonderful devotions in the Catholic Church.
  • St. Jane Frances de Chantal: Had to deal with a marriage that she didn’t exactly want and made the most of it. Later went on to be the foundress of the Visitation Sisters

Of course, we can’t forget saints who also tended to the outcasts of society such as Saint Francis, St. Damian of Molokai and St. Marianne Cope, St. Mother Teresa, etc. I understand that the target audience for this book is the everywoman who feels like she’s never doing enough or never feels like she is enough, but I would’ve loved to have seen some things about actual social outcasts: people who deal with all sorts of identity issues.

Overall, I recommend this book to women who are seeking emotional reassurance in their lives. Again, this book doesn’t go deep, but it provides a sense of comfort to those who are seeking it.

The Idol of the Narrative

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In Strange Gods, Elizabeth Scalia went into detail on how we create idols out of our own egos and ideas. In Little Sins Mean a Lot, there’s a whole chapter about the dangers of clinging onto unhealthy narratives. As a writer, I pay a lot of attention to the narrative. Every person has their own version of what they think their lives were like and their perspectives of the people around them.

For the longest time, I had this narrative in my head that I spent a lot of my life alone. In spite of the fact that I had a good family and went to a good school, the story of my life always focused on the times that I was bullied or neglected. I also have a tendency of using this tactic of focusing too much on the negative when it comes to remembering my exes. I think it stems from some kind of self-preservation, a tactic to keep myself safe and remind myself to avoid getting into those situations again.

However, during my recent vacation to New Jersey, I met with a couple of old friends. We reminisced about my childhood, as childhood friends always do. Then one of my friends told me something I never knew. Way back when I was in kindergarten, the seventh and eighth graders were making ants on a log (peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins) when one of them realized that having the peanut butter around could trigger my allergy. Even though I wasn’t even in the same building as them and wasn’t as sensitive to peanuts as other kids, they decided to throw out their snacks, peanut butter and all, just to make sure that I would be safe.

I also learned that my childhood best friend was very protective of me. I knew that she and I were best friends, in spite of us being complete opposites, but I never knew that she protected me as if I was part of her family. Of course, she was the youngest of four sisters so it made sense that she treated me like the little sister she never had. I was loved and cherished even by people I never really knew. The crappy stuff I went through in middle school wasn’t all bad because I still had people to talk to. I was never as alone as I always believed I was.

The narratives we tell others reveal a lot to them about how we see ourselves and how we see other people. It’s basically why I’m trying to remember the good times I had with my exes as well as the bad. While I still joke that my love life is a veritable “comedy of errors,” I don’t want to condemn the people I connected with and paint them as the worst of humanity. It doesn’t mean that I’ll ever want them back in my lives. It’s just part of me learning how to forgive them. I always like to believe that people are inherently good, but at the same time, they also have damage that they haven’t completely healed from. Some people hide this damage behind a mask while others cling to their broken narratives and play the victim. None of these are healthy coping mechanisms.

If we want to start becoming the best versions of ourselves, we need to rewrite the narrative we have for our lives. We are never as alone as we think we are. We are loved so much by people we may not even know. The people in our lives have their own narratives as well. If you have hurt someone or received damage from somebody, I’m not asking you to contact them and try to work things out. Instead, go into prayer with God and ask Him to heal the wounds in your heart. There’s a wonderful prayer Leah Libresco shared with me that honors the Five Wounds of Christ that you can pray here. If you have some emotional ties with someone, I highly recommend praying a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

As the musical Hamilton often repeats, we have no control who lives, who dies, and who tells our story. We have control over our actions and the stories we write for ourselves, but we are all in need of guidance as to how we can act and perceive things in a good way. Today, I ask you to let God write your story. Hand the narrative over to Him and see what he can do.

A New Way To Walk

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I want to write about happier things this week. So not only am I taking Catholic Conspiracy’s Positivity Pledge, I’m doing the #100HappyDays tag on Instagram. I’ve been doing the tag for a little over a week now, but you can definitely start today because as the Phineas and Ferb theme song said: “There’s 104 days of summer vacation…”

With all the stuff that’s been going on, I need a lot more positivity in my life. So aside from coloring, I’ve been trying new things. As you can see from the photo above, I started taking tap lessons. What’s awesome about this class is that I could follow along with the class at my own pace.

I’m also taking out my high heels again as my social life has come back for a little bit. I’ll give more details on that later, but for now, pray that I don’t fall flat on my face or sprain my ankles!

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Little Sins Mean A Lot: A Book Review

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Little Sins Mean A Lot is a book about the bad habits we have, our venial sins, which can add up to a lot of damage if we’re not careful. I read through this book in one day, finding bits of myself in most of the chapters. Each chapter starts off with a story or several stories that relate to the topic of the chapter. There are quotes from the saints, the Catechism, and Bible verses to show what Catholicism has to say about these little sins. The third part of the chapter looks into how we can break those bad habits. The book isn’t too long, but each chapter packs up a whole lot in a relatively short amount of pages.

I like that the book gives a lot of starting points in terms of identifying and breaking the bad habits. My favorite chapters are the ones that center on procrastination, small indulgences, and “clinging to our narratives beyond their usefulness.” I’ll go into detail on these so that you can get a sneak preview of why I like this book so much.

Procrastination: Like a lot of other writers, I struggle with procrastination. I am way too easily distracted by the latest hashtag or whatever notifications go off on my phone and I tend to dedicate more time to my “short time wasters” than I should. In true Dante-esque fashion, Elizabeth Scalia counters this bad habit with an example from Mary: The Annunciation. Since I consecrated myself on the feast of the Annunciation, I found myself wanting to imitate Mary’s example. There are several root causes to why we procrastinate and Elizabeth tackles every single one of them.

Small Indulgences: Ask those who know me best and they will tell you that I always love to treat myself whenever I get the opportunity. Usually, it comes in the form of food. It’s okay when it happens once in a while, but too much indulging will lead to cravings for more of whatever you indulge in. In other words, small indulgences can be an addiction if we’re not careful. I particularly like how she suggests asking the saints and our guardian angels for help. One example I can give (and trust me, I never get tired of telling this story) is when I wanted to indulge myself at a convention by having the actor I was gonna meet take a picture with him pretending to bite me, vampire style. However, my guardian angel suggested otherwise, leading to a more heroic picture that’s still one of my favorites to this day!

Clinging To Our Narratives Beyond Their Usefulness: An alternative title I have for this chapter is “Selling Ourselves Short.” As a writer, this chapter felt particularly personal for me because I practically worship the idea of “the narrative.” I always see my life as a huge, neverending story. Except I also know that way too many people cling onto their “victim narratives” in order to justify why they act a certain way. One friend told me that she thought that I hid behind my writing. I don’t think that I use my writing as a shield, but I’ve been defining myself by this narrative that I created for a very long time. The chapter calls for detachment, to let God write our story instead. The only other thing I would add is a suggestion about what true humility looks like. As CS Lewis said: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” As in thinking of yourself less often than you normally do.

 

I think the biggest lesson that can be learned from this book is that it completely and totally destroys the lie that “as long as you’re not doing harm to anyone, you’re a good person.” These little habits can harm ourselves and others in a big way if they are taken too far. We all have times when we procrastinate, indulge a little too much, and sell ourselves short. We can swing from being too full of ourselves to outright hating ourselves. The trick to all this is finding balance. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially to 12-step programs.

History is Happening in Manhattan: The Beauty of the Tony Awards

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“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.”-William Shakespeare, Ask You Like It

Musicals, to me, are like a love affair. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with musicals. In spite of all the tragedy and internet debate, I still looked forward to the Tony awards.

Now I know that award shows can get political and the Tonys are no different. But I stand by what James Corden said:

But as my pastor said today in his homily during Daily Mass, we can only overcme evil with good and be loving in the face of hatred. I don’t agree with all the political stuff being talked about. I just want to remind everyone that in spite of everything, there is always good happening in this world.

On with the show!

Everyone on Broadway knew that Hamilton was basically the selling point, the darling, so it’s no surprise that the show opened with a Hamilton-style introduction of James Corden.

However, the real opening number was a beautiful, inspiring song about how theater inspires people to go into acting.  There’s a magic to theater that can’t be completely captured in film or television and the quick changes in this number shows a little glimpse of that magic. And yeah, I was listing off every single musical he referenced. The Doctor would be proud of you, Craig.

Corden described the Tonys in his opening monologue as “The Oscars, but with diversity.” There were more than a few shots taken at Trump and their support for a certain presidential nominee wasn’t exactly subtle either. She was senator of New York, after all. But I love that actors of every age and race was nominated for a major award.

As of now, my latest musical love affair is with Hamilton, which had a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations. Due to multiple actors being nominated in the same categories, the musical could only win a total of 13 possible awards. They ended up winning 11, including Best Musical. So before I get to squeeing over that, I want to give attention to the other shows that performed that night. Warning, though, I am very sick with a case of Hamilaria, so forgive all the Hamilton puns I’ll be making throughout this blog post.

The first musical number performed featured the cast of School of Rock: The Musical. I admit that I was kind of skeptical about this adaptation, but watching the performance opened my mind to the idea.”You’re In The Band” shows Dewey assembling his rock band, with the kids getting more excited as the song got more bombastic. I love that the kids played their instruments live (although I’m not sure where the electrical instruments are plugged into). It’s a very-high energy performance that I hope inspires future kids to try and take a shot.

The next number was from Shuffle Along, a musical about the making of a Broadway show in the 1920s. The performance featured a lot of beautiful tap dancing that had me considering taking lessons. Audra McDonald’s voice was as gorgeous as always. The melody of the song and all those tap dancers stirred up pure, undiluted joy in my heart.

She Loves Me, nominated for Best Revival, had a performance that starred Jane Krakowski from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Zachary Levi from Tangled and Laura Benanti aka Alura and Aunt Astra on Supergirl. This musical won the Tony for best set design and I totally get why. I also have to give Jane props for dancing her heart in the first song. She’s absolutely adorable! Zachary Levi is utterly charming, too. But Laura Benanti totally clinched her performance. Never have I ever heard anyone sing so passionately about vanilla ice cream! The romantic comedy role she’s playing is such a huge contrast from her serious role on Supergirl and her role as the Baroness in the NBC live showing of The Sound of Music. I absolutely love it!

Another musical nominated for Best Revival was Fiddler on the Roof. James Corden showed Josh Groban playing Tevye at the age of 17. Josh Groban took it with great stride. (Your face needs to stop, it’s so cute!) The cast of Fiddler performed “Sunrise, Sunset” and the huge wedding reception dance number. You can really see how much work they put into it.

The musical I knew the least about was Bright StarBright Star is a musical set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina during the 40s with flashbacks to the 20s. The play is written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was definitely an interesting performance, but I’m not sure if it’s for me.

Two other musicals nominated for Best Revival were The Color Purple and Spring AwakeningThe Color Purple‘s song was perfectly apropos because they sang about how “The Good Lord Works In Mysterious Ways.” It reminded the audience that in spite of the bad things that happen, God will always come through. Then Cynthia Ervio sings a beautiful solo about gratitude and accepting yourself. It’s no wonder that it won Best Revival.

In contrast, Spring Awakening was performed by a cast of deaf teenagers from the Deaf West Theatre. The songs were performed with singers, but most of the actors “sung” the lyrics in American Sign Language. I liked the concept of this revival because, as Marlee Matlin described it, the story of Spring Awakening is “a cautionary tale of lust and longing teenagers and the adults who refuse to hear them.” The musical is skeptical and confusing, much like adolescence is, and this revival shows that even people who can’t hear have a voice.

My dad, who is a huge fan of Gloria Estefan loved the performance from the cast of On Your Feet. He told me that Ana Villafane went to the same high school as Gloria Estefan. The resemblance between Ana and Gloria is very uncanny! Emilio Esetefan, Gloria’s husband, also announced that everyone in the cast is here in the country legally, papers and all. Gloria and Ana had a vivacious performance

Out of all the original musicals nominated this year, though, Waitress was the one that caught my eye the most. I already knew Jessie Mueller from her role of Carole King in Beautiful. The number started with “Opening Up” and ended with a goosebump-inducing rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” featuring Sara Bareilles (who wrote the score and songs for this musical) and Jessie Mueller. The song reminds me of the worst years of my life, when I thought I lost myself. Also, I want Jesse Mueller to be Sara Bareilles in some future biopic.

Now, while musicals were the main feature of the night, a few plays caught my attention. Eclipsed looks into the lives of captive sex slaves living through the Liberian civil war. The Father, a play centering on a man with dementia, stars Frank Langella from Frost/Nixon. King Charles III intrigued me because it’s inspired by Shakespearean tragedy but mixes it with speculative fiction as to what kind of king Prince Charles might be. Other notable plays are the revivals of two Arthur Miller plays: The Crucible and A View from The Bridge. I was also familiar with Noises Off because my college did a production of that during my first year. A View From the Bridge won Best Revival and The Humans (a play set in WWII) won Best Play.

And now, to my favorite parts. Namely, the parts where Hamilton won most of the things! (11/13 ain’t bad as far as I’m concerned.)

It didn’t surprise that Daveed Diggs won Best Featured Actor. I loved Renee Elise Goldsberry‘s acceptance speech. I had no idea that she struggled to have children and I’m so happy that she has two kids now and values them enough to save them for last in her speech. Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s tear-jerking sonnet as he accepted his Tony for Best Score made me want to give him a hug. Thomas Kail, the director of Hamilton, won Best Direction of A Musical. I tweeted: “Thomas, that was a real nice declaration.” The surprise of the night, though, was Leslie Odom Jr. winning the Tony for Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance of Aaron Burr.

Then, of course, were the wonderful performances from the cast. The first one, aside from the opening, was a performance of “History Has Its Eyes On You” and “Yorktown.”

Angelhamilfan on tumblr pointed out something interesting about this performance:

I feel like people are missing something really key that happened in the 2016 Tonys performance.

Lin changed one word. But that’s all it took to change the meaning of the performance and the Tonys.

“Weapon with my hands.”

They didn’t just take out the muskets to show solidarity, Lin is trying to teach us that what we do, say and write will change perspective for generations to come. He’s showing us how we don’t need a gun or violence to fight for what we believe in. Like Alexander, we have our hands. Our writing. Our words are immortalized when we write, no matter who takes us away. The massacre in Orlando has devastated our country, but why stay silent? Why give them what they want and silence ourselves? We need to make something that is immortalized. Teach generations that come that you can take away our loved ones, but you can NEVER take our words.

It’s the message of the Schuyler Sisters in the closing number that I love the most, though: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” In spite of all the bad things that are happening, we are lucky to be alive right now. We are blessed.

Defying Expectations: A Poem In Honor of Autism Awareness Day

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The diagnosis began with a test.
I was called out of class
and was asked a lot of questions.
The results of that test were kept hidden

Until a classmate did a project
and the questions began their resurrection.
My mother revealed I had Asperger’s
I didn’t really know what that meant or what to do with it

Years later, I came across an article
about a model who had this strange condition
I watched her story play out, her struggle resonating with mine
It was as if she was saying “You are not alone.”

In time, I became more open about my Asperger’s
And found people who understood or were surprised
I guess I was more “high functioning” than I thought
But even so, there were dark clouds looming on the horizon.

One dark night, I was caught in a tidal wave of anxiety
Screaming for help in the riptide, I drowned instead
I washed up on the frozen shores of the Ice Queen’s land
Where she exiled me and wanted off with my head

For years I struggled with nightmares and wandering
Trying to find myself again through something, anything
I almost ended up losing myself entirely
Through the lies of someone else’s manipulative words

But I broke free of the lies that she said
I started my journey of finding myself again.
My broken dreams were scattered behind me
And all I could do was move forward out of the woods

Diagnoses and cold judgment were their short-sighted expectations
I ran from that insanity and with time, I found my way out
I ran out of the woods and made a leap of faith
I fell down into an ocean that became my cocoon

In the ocean, new words taught me to swim
A new voice became my light in the darkness
In the deep waters, I grew wings
And one day, suddenly, I found myself flying

From the ocean to the sky, I soared
The words of the naysayers a distant memory
The ghosts of the pasts can no longer bring me down
I defied the gravity of their expectations

Being on "God's Time"

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I never thought I would be so annoyed about setting the clocks forward. Since I already wake up earlier than usual as part of my Lenten resolution, I’ve lost a little more sleep now that Daylight Savings Time has started. And I really could’ve used some extra sleep since my retreat ended on Saturday night.

But as I’ve learned on retreats, you are never really on your own time, but actually “God’s time.” Retreats have schedules, but things rarely go as planned or go as smoothly as we want them to. The same thing applies to real life. We may have all these plans about how we want our day to go, but something always throws us off our schedule. It could be the kids crying, rush hour traffic, an unexpected request from a co-worker, etc. As Taylor Swift said “Life is full of little interruptions.”

One thing I struggle with is how to be flexible with my time while trying to stick to a schedule. I used to plan everything down to the minute to the point that one tiny distraction or interruption would throw me off completely. Now that I work from home, I have to make my own schedule and structure my day in small ways.

Another thing that I also struggle with, when it comes to God’s timing, is trusting in his providence. I have the very awful tendency to compare my life to other people’s. It seems like everyone I know is in a relationship, getting married, having babies, working full-time…and I’m stuck at home, waiting for my life to start.

It wasn’t until I watched Yulin Kuang recap how 2015 was for her that I learned the meaning behind the idea of “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” She pointed out that she didn’t document her disappointments and that a lot of her year was spent waiting. “So much so that you couldn’t stand it.” It made me realize that everyone has long waiting periods at some point or another. Rome wasn’t built in a day and there’s no such thing as an actual overnight sensation.

I’m only three months into 2016 and I’ve already been on one retreat. I have plans for travelling next month as well as this summer. I contributed to a Bible study and am trying to be consistent with my goals and my prayer life. A lot of my blessings have been of the interior, both this year and throughout my post-college life. But all that waiting led to amazing things in the long run.

I am always on God’s time, even when I don’t want to be. After all, Romans 8:28 says “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

So let’s hope that whatever God has in store for me this year was worth waiting for.

Advancing While Retreating

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Last weekend, I was away on a 2-day Ignatian retreat. This retreat was unique from all the others I attended or staffed in a few ways.

For one thing, the retreat was more contemplative, focusing on a series of reflections that centered on who we thought Christ was, forgiveness, and the idea of dying to oneself and rising in Christ.

I spent a lot more time in silence during this retreat than any other retreat. It wasn’t a silent retreat, but the contemplative nature of the retreat and the gorgeous almost-spring weather prompted me to forget about trying to make small talk and enjoy my surroundings. This was especially true on Friday evening, when I caught sight of the night sky as I was walking towards the Stations of the Cross. It’s true what they say, y’all. The stars at night are bigger and brighter in Texas. It was like seeing them for the first time. When there was a long break on Saturday afternoon, I walked around the retreat property, appreciating all the wildflowers and trees. But my favorite place was a small lake that was perfect for skipping rocks. It was so nice and quiet there.

One thing I learned in this retreat is that when you spend time in silence, there is nothing standing between you and God. During the times I spent in silence, I realized that I was still holding parts of myself back from God. I also had problems enjoying the moment because on the one hand, I didn’t want the retreat to end. On the other hand, I was already longing for the trip home and the promise of fries and ICEEs from Buc-ees.

I went to this retreat seeking out answers and came home with my heart and conscience clear, but my future still uncertain. In spite of the uncertainty, though, I feel like I found a starting point. My life with Christ starts with me dying to myself and letting Christ have all of my heart. I found detachment from a lot of things I was obsessing over, but I also missed my friends. I found a sense of balance.

I highly recommend that if you get the opportunity this Lent, go on retreat or spend at least an hour in silence with God. You’ll be amazed at what you will find.

#TransformationTuesday: Walking Through The Rainstorms

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My current favorite song from Taylor Swift is not one of her big hit singles. It’s the 13th song of her album 1989 “Clean.”  When she went on the 1989 tour, she did a speech before performing this particular song. Here’s a variation of one of them:

I still remember how lost I felt a few years ago. I was so trapped by all the anxieties and lies that almost lost myself. And if it wasn’t for God holding me in his arms and leading me out of that dark place, I don’t know where I would be. The most astonishing thing, though, is that the pain I felt all those years ago is not there anymore. I don’t even imagine that memory in the same way anymore.

I still see the girl I used to be huddled in the backseat of the car, parked at a rest stop, hyperventilating while clutching my phone. I still remember the rain falling down. There weren’t any divine interventions. Just the smallest realization that I had to stop giving into the lies. I was a child of God. And nobody was going to decide what I would do or how I would feel except me. It was a quiet revelation. The way I choose to remember it now is that all the prayers from my family, the saints, and friends that I haven’t met yet came down on me just like the rain on the car. These prayers became my strength. I had a song in my heart that I didn’t know the words to, but it was there.

I never expected that the scars would fade. I never thought I would ever get out of the dark. But I did. And this was not a journey I took by myself. God led me out. So many saints intervened. My parents pushed me to volunteer and get myself out there. The healing was a long and slow process, but I feel so much stronger now. The broken pieces of my heart have been put back together, held by the grace of God. I’m no longer lost in the dark. It’s very much like what Jenny Williams said on her “Modern Day Ruth” blog: God’s love encountered me every day that I felt lost and now he’s given me wings to fly.

Since today is International Women’s Day, here’s my message to all women who are in a dark place right now, who find themselves walking through torrential rain or a firestorm of pain: You are not alone. You will get out. There is a light that is shining through this darkness. Choose to be strong in Christ and walk through all the storms with Him. Eventually you’ll find yourself again. And you’ll find that you are so much stronger than you ever thought you’d be.

Photo attributed to Jenny Williams from “A Modern Day Ruth” and “Ruby Wives.”