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

A Party at the Red Dragon Inn

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It was a cold winter’s day in the land of Wildepond. The wandering huntress, Lilirese, was seeking shelter for the night. She saw a bright light coming from the Red Dragon Inn and decided to sneak in there.

The inn was packed as the town was celebrating the annual feast of Erymanthia, which centered on feasting on a boar’s head.

She was surprised to see that many of the friends and allies she encountered on her journey through Wildepond were also in this inn. The great Abbess leader, Elitina, was enjoying a light ale, laughing with her friend, Jorlyn, the great warrior princess. Katdare and the wandering troubadour Maxilind were having a drinking contest with the elf mother Cabelarel. Renowned scholar Schiler was singing with the sheriff, their courtship plain and obvious to the other residents of the inn.

Many tables had gambling games going on. Lilirese was surprised that the wise Counselor Tomzonu and the great sage Wilquet were playing with a high wage alongside the local giant troll, Marcellius. Since she was in need of money, she joined their table.

“Gambling? I’m in!” she said.

“Well if it isn’t our favorite little thief!” Counselor Tomzonu said.

“We thought you were in that sunny little land in the west,” Marcellius said.

“I was only passing through there for a little while,” Lilirese said. Dropping her gold on the table, she said, “I raise.”

Unfortunately, the great sage had the winning hand. He used the money to buy a round of drinks for everyone. After having a light ale, Elitina drank Holy Water as a chaser, restoring her spirits. Others had light ales or wine while others spilled their drinks.

After everyone tipped the wench, they all sat down at a long table for conversation as the boar’s head was being served. Lilirese loved that she got to spend time with the people she considered family. Life in Wildepond has dramatically changed with the new regents. Many of her mentors have left. While Lilirese never officially left Wildepond, Marcellius was right about her spending time hunting in a quiet sunny town in the west.

Lilirese observed the others. Most of them were playing some kind of jokes on each other in hopes of reducing fortitude. Elitina had an advantage, though. Being an abbess allowed her to protect herself from losing fortitude. Maxilind, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as lucky when Schiler bought a round of drinks for everyone.

“You’ve had too much and you’ve lost all your fortitude, dear friend,” Katdare said.

“Game over, man! Game over!” The giant troll said as Maxilind passed out on the table.

###

“Game over? Really, Mark?” Teresa asked as Elizabeth cleaned up the table.

“I only thought it would be appropriate,” Mark said.

Katrina laughed as she finished the rest of her beer. “I thought it was funny,” she said, slurring her words.

“We shouldn’t have made this an actual drinking game,” Joanne said, her face flushed from a few too many.

Max sighed as he folded his deck and left the table. “I’m gonna go sleep this off!”

“Maybe we should watch a movie,” Leah said. “This game has been going on for a while now.”

“We can watch a movie after I beat Mr. Z here,” Mr. McDonald said.

“I don’t mind either way,” Teresa said. “I’m just glad to be with y’all again.”

It was New Year’s Eve. Everyone gathered in a little supper club called the Biergarten for the annual party. Leah brought in the game Red Dragon Inn and Katrina decided to make it a drinking game.

Teresa kept looking out the door.

“Are you waiting for someone?” Tom asked.

“Just hoping that I might have someone to kiss at midnight for once.” She looked back at the party and sighed. “I’m just glad that everyone’s here.”

The drinking that everyone partook in was balanced out with a great feast. Teresa especially enjoyed the spaghetti.

When it was about an hour away from midnight, there was a knock on the door. Everyone looked at each other, wondering who it could be. Elizabeth opened the door. Teresa smiled.

The one they’ve all been waiting for has come.

The Benefits of Prayer and Mass Journals

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I’ve been a journal writer ever since the first grade and throughout college and afterwards, I’ve been keeping a prayer journal. At this point in my life, I currently have three prayer journals: One is a binder of loose leaf paper that I use when I pray in the morning. The second is a composition notebook that I use when I pray the Examen. The third is a small spiral notebook that I use as a Mass journal.

Keeping a prayer journal is a great way to increase your prayer life. I often call it writing letters to God. Thomas Merton, St. Therese of Lisieux, Pope John XXIII, St. Faustina, St. Ignatius, Mother Teresa, and many other saints have kept journals. Mass journals are more of a recent thing, inspired by Matthew Kelly and promoted by the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship.

Being a writer, keeping a journal is a great way for me to get all my thoughts out of my head. I love having social media, don’t get me wrong, but there are things I’d rather keep between me and God. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be good at writing, or even praying, there’s a great sense of relief of getting everything in your head out onto paper.

If you’re not sure where to start, I’ll give you some suggestions, starting with Mass Journaling.

The way I journal at Mass is that I write a verse that particularly stands out to me from the readings and I take notes during the homily, if it’s a good one. If you find yourself in the middle of a bad homily, take note of the readings you heard or read and meditate on them at home. Bishop-Elect Robert Barron always has great homilies on the Word on Fire site. Also ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your pastor when you journal about his homily.

Another way to keep a journal is to address it to your future spouse. No, not in the Megan Trainor “Dear Future Husband” kind of way. Katie Hartfiel and Crystalina Evert both kept a journal, addressing the entries to their future husbands. I actually did a few journals in this style during my last two years of college, but my post-college crisis prompted me to address the journals to a higher power instead.

You can also keep a gratitude journal, in which you write at least one thing that you’re grateful for. I highly recommend keeping a gratitude journal because it’s a great way to remember all the blessings that God put into your life, even if it’s hard to see them at first.

Here’s how I prayer journal right now. In the morning, I set aside time to do a type of journaling that I’ve done since high school: The Morning Pages, as created by Julia Cameron. Now Cameron isn’t a Catholic. She fell away from the Church. But her book, The Artist’s Way is still one of the books that I feel made the most impact on my life. I started writing the Pages as my way of coping with being rejected from Rice University and went through The Artist’s Way for 12 weeks. During those 12 weeks, I got an acceptance letter from The University of St. Thomas, which was the best thing that happened to me in my adolescence. Even though she’s not a Catholic anymore, I feel like God used her as a secondary cause for me to find the best way of journaling out my anxiety. These days, when I do the Morning Pages, I address the letters to Jesus, picturing Him as my best friend and confidant, ready to relieve me of my burdens. Through the Morning Pages, I offer up my worries and offer up the day to Him, asking for His guidance and help. If you feel like writing the Morning Pages as a form of prayer journaling, check out Julia Cameron’s video on them on her website.

At night, I pray the Examen using a composition journal. I have a soft spot for composition notebooks. They may be plain and even childish at times, but they’re also simple and perfectly spaced out. I tend to write big so notebooks with small lines are the worst for me! Anyway, I love writing out the Examen because part of the Examen involves going through the day, thinking about what you’re grateful for as well as recalling the things that you did wrong. Writing helps me sort all of it out. There are many ways to pray the Examen, but my favorite one so far is how Leah Libresco described it in her book Arriving at Amen.

The short version, for those who haven’t read the book yet, goes like this:

  1. Consider your blessings.
  2. Ask God for light.
  3. Review your faults that happened today.
  4. Ask God for forgiveness
  5. Anticipate how you’ll start over.

The Examen journal functions as my gratitude journal as well because it helps me be grateful for all things: the good, the bad, the things I learn, and the things I can do in the future.

 

Rachel and Kateri have a wonderful video about prayer journaling that I highly recommend you watch.

 

One thing that I do with all of my journals is that I write down the date. It doesn’t seem important, but it’s always nice, whenever I look at my journals, to remember what day I gained a certain insight or when something special happened to me. Re-reading my journals has also showed me how much I have changed. My journals are also my way of keeping myself accountable when it comes to things that I need to do.

The point is, give prayer and Mass journaling a chance. You don’t have to be a good writer. You just need to start writing.

Get A Catholic Bible Study and Study Journal For Absolutely Free!

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A few months ago, I started contributing Bible study meditations to the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship, a Catholic Bible study site for women. Not only do they have free Bible studies, but all Bible studies from the upcoming one onward will come with a free study journal!

For the first time, I got to write my very own Bible study! My study on 1st Peter starts July 13th, which is incidentally my half-birthday.

A sneak preview:

Many people have this misconception that having a life in faith is easy, borderline childish, naive, and stupid. In reality, life as a Christian is a constant challenge. For one thing, God constantly pushes us outside of our comfort zones and asks us change. Most of us don’t like to change unless we feel that it’s absolutely necessary. But as C.S. Lewis said ““I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

1 Peter could be considered a short guide to living a Christ-filled life.

I also have an accompanying playlist for my 1st Peter study on Spotify. Just click on the Spotify link here to follow it!

On top of all that, Heart of Mary is also having a weekly photo challenge on Instagram. Follow them here and join in!

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Women of Christ Wednesday: Mariella Hunt

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From her website:

Mariella Hunt is 20 years old and lives in the Treasure Valley. She writes fiction and reflections on the Catholic faith.

She has been featured on TeenInk Magazine, with a poem published in their July 2013 edition. She also guest writes for Ignitum Today and for Stephanie Kehr.

Mariella is currently in the process of publishing her first novel Dissonance.

She summarizes her novel thusly:

A mysterious ailment dooms Allie Grant to permanent confinement. It limits her contact with other people, but doesn’t stop her from getting away to chase a song no one else hears.

When Allie’s recital ends in tragedy, she’s sent to live with Julian, an uncle she’s never met. He claims to be a Muse with surreal affinity for the arts–and answers that could heal her.

Allie learns quickly there’s more to this man, who despite his haunts has a world in his hands. As they struggle with demons together, tragedy gives way to truth that will set both of them free.

1) Where did the idea for Dissonance come from?

It came from the ocean. Five years ago I was visiting Peru and fell in love with the sea; this fascination became a story about mermaids and sirens. Somehow as I’ve edited over the years, the storyline took a total change and now it’s about Muses. I don’t know how that happened…but that just shows how much life a story can have.

2) Are there any Catholic elements in this story?

There’s an abandoned cathedral but it’s only there to illustrate the eccentricity of the man who owns it. Really, I didn’t go out of my way to pluck religious elements into this story. I think there are traces of Catholicism in how I tried to make family important, a priority over all things. Anything else is just coincidence that fit well with the story.

3) What kind of stories do you like to read?

Lately I’ve taken to reading a lot of literary fiction and YA to review, but I have a definite soft spot for classic novels. They’re timeless and they have a strange magic to them.

4) Who are your go-to saints?

Mother Mary has kept me calm all this time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all the details for publishing are finally settling down on May, the month of Mary! I had planned for a December release, but God proved to me that even manuscripts are part of His plan and not mine.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

For your book to be any good, you’re probably going to rewrite a lot. Don’t let the years discourage you, but be prepared to think you’re done and then realize it could be better. I promise there’s a point where you eventually feel satisfied with the plot.

Dissonance will be coming out soon! I’ll keep you posted on it.

His Mercy is Everlasting

My latest contribution to the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship is up right now!

An excerpt

 We’ve all had those times that we either had a song stuck in our head for what felt like weeks or loved a song so much, we would put that song on repeat for hours, or even days on end. Either way, it would take a long time for that song to get out of our heads. Today’s verses all sound similar, but they echo a wonderful refrain: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever.” Mercy and love are used interchangeably because to God, they are one and the same. That declaration of God’s enduring mercy and love becomes like that song that gets stuck in our head, whether we like it or not.

Go read the rest there!

The Wreck of the Day On Red Hotel Paper

A Found Poem of Lyrics from Taylor Swift, Michelle Branch, and Anna Nalick

 

2AM

In my room

I’m still awake

The lingering question kept me up

Can you help me unravel my latest mistake?

I think of you

Feeling like I just lost a friend

Remember that fight in your car

The memories start

You say I’ve been driving you crazy

 

I see your face in my mind

as you drive straight ahead

Away from the wreck of the day

I’m calling on Jesus

I’m cursing your name

He’s everything I know

that makes me believe I’m not alone

He’s the teardrops on my guitar

His love doesn’t hurt so I know

I’m not falling in love

I’m just falling to pieces

I’m tied together with a smile

And I’m coming undone

 

I’m sitting on the citadel

On the outside looking in

I screamed so loud

Don’t worry about this heart of mine

Let me love you, let me want you

You’re gonna break my heart anyway

Hey can you talk a little louder?

I don’t think my heart is broken enough

But no one heard a thing

 

You just see right through me

You saw me there, but never knew

But if you only knew

I wanted everything

A part of this, a part of you

I’m the one who understands you

Why can’t you see?

Don’t just walk away

pretending everything’s okay

Cuz I don’t wanna lie

That I’m okay and I’m alright

 

It hurts to want everything and nothing at the same time

I never planned on you changing your mind

I want you, but I’m not giving in this time

I don’t wanna be the only one who’s drowning in their misery

Someday love will find me

 

No one can find the rewind button now

I cradle my head in my hands and breathe

Let it fill the space between

I have to breathe without you, I have to

 

JMJ

Two Poems, One Retreat.

These are two poems I wrote during my first time staffing Bayou Awakening. Think of it as a “before” and “after” of what it means to learn humility.

 

Like Water

 

Dripping

Running

Flowing

Giving life yet getting nothing

I am poured out into an unknown place

Not raging

Not calm

Now flowing

A river constantly running

Like water, I am unseen

I am giving, yet I receive nothing

And I’m not sure where I’m going

I want to be still

Find the ocean of grace

But like a waterfall

I am poured out

Fading into the mist

 

Like Water

 

Poured

Running

Flowing

Giving life and receiving love

I am poured into His embrace

Not raging

Not still

But flowing

I am a waterfall

Giving all that I am in His name

Although I don’t know where I’m going

He is always with me

I flow to the ocean of His grace

Poured out

And filled with Him

The Monster In Me: A Poem

As a child I wanted to explore everything

Wanting to understand all I saw

Following stories of scientists and detectives

My role models were the kinds that wore uniforms and lab coats

But one day I got lost

I followed a rabbit where I shouldn’t have gone

 

All of a sudden, I started falling downward

Down, down, down

In love

In drama

In worlds far beyond my reach

I got lost in the stories

And in the stories I found a monster

The monster lashed out at my own friends

for not acting in a certain way

The monster despised the world I lived in,

preferring the chaos of her wonderland

Illusions became more valuable than gold

And all I could do was write

Write the monster’s laments as if they were my own

How little did I know, how quickly did I grow

 

In a large barren dust bowl,

my monster told me her name

Autism was her species

Aspergers, her claim to fame

She wasn’t the result of faulty software

but built by the creator with a different hardware

She processed my thoughts, filtering them like coffee

Strong and harsh and bitter at times

until I added some milk or some artificial sweet

to make some version of me complete.

I denied this monster’s existence for a long time

Still lost in the harsh blinding sun

Far from what I used to know.

I put her in a drawer,

hoping she’d be forgotten,

falling for the lies of different monsters instead.

These monsters came

in the form of handsome men

And it wasn’t until they were gone

that I realized they never saved me.

 

My monster came back with a vengeance

as I transitioned from high school to college.

We walked on a tightrope

between the dark wonderland we knew

and a land of a thousand stars that shined in the distance

My monster and I fell down again

but landed in a safety net

in the land of a thousand stars

Stars that shone brightly in the dark, black sky

But I loved each new day as much as the night.

I started introducing my monster to my friends

who were surprised she even existed.

Little did either of us know

that this starry paradise had hunters in the foxholes.

 

One night, I was caught in a tidal wave

and found myself naked for all to see

My monster took over and started shrieking

singing out her agony

We drowned in a torrent of negative thoughts

with no one to save us

Nobody helped.

As the tide washed out,

the Queen of Foxhunters took us to court

and commanded my monster to chop off her own head.

Instead, we ran as far as we could

away from the heartless queen and her hunters.

 

We made a plan to work together.

The monster learned to be more like the others

And I hid safely inside a white tent

until a knight in shining armor

came and asked me to dance with him.

My monster was puzzled by this new man

And sometimes she would cover my mouth.

While I worried about why my white knight

seemed to be walking a tightrope of his own.

 

Then all of a sudden

Everything started falling away

Changing too fast for either me or my monster to handle.

The white knight got on his horse and rode off without us

Then we lost a beloved friend

Then we had to leave the starry land

No more games in the clean, white tent.

No solid ground, no safety net.

 

Wandering around, we got stuck in a rut

Lost in a maze with no way out

A little maiden in the maze started stringing us along

But when we came to a dead end,

the maiden became a minotaur

My monster couldn’t handle the minotaur’s strength

With a pierce of a horn, my monster lost

She fell down again

Shattered

Crying

And I limped along with my monster to safety

Not looking back, fearing the minotaur’s chasing.

 

Out of the labyrinth, we got caught in a storm

Constant rain pouring down on us.

But we stayed in the storm and let it wash us clean

It became the source of our growth, the source of our healing

The water healed my monster and stopped the bleeding.

Then the rain was gone and the sun came out.

I saw a reflection of the monster in the water

Except the reflection was that of my face

The monster was inside me all along.

Like a softer Hyde to my little Jekyll

or a female version of that big green thing

The monster’s still in me, being sought by the hunters

Too bad they don’t know I have the strength to protect her

After all, she’s a part of me

 

She’s the armor I wear and the tears that I shed

She’s the sword in my hand and the thoughts in my head

She’s my curiosity, insatiable in her hunger

Devouring knowledge and building new dreams

She’s a part of me without being all of me

And I wouldn’t want it any other way

 

Things I Did Without You: A Poem

The chain of your lies

Kept me in a dream

Until I found a crack in the wall

And finally woke up.

 

On a dark rainy day,

I let out a silent scream,

Declaring once and for all

That we were done.

 

“You don’t get to decide what I do or how I feel!” I yelled.

“You don’t have the right!”

And the first thing I did without you

Was learn how to fight.

 

It took time for me to regain my strength

Haunted by what I still remembered

But just as I started to fall apart,

I said a prayer and put myself back together.

 

The second thing I did without you was learn how to speak.

With you, my voice was something beyond recognition.

No word off my tongue sounded like my own

So I sang His praises while going through the transition

 

I sang of how fortunate I was to fall

How He shattered the darkness and brought me back to life

In my awakening I found my confidence

But when I thought I was safe, I got stabbed by your knife

 

Even though I kept my body safe from harm,

I could still see scars in my heart and in my mind

So I sought help from a friend who was strong like an Amazon

Not realizing all the things I would find

 

Beyond the apocalypse, there was a brave new world

Wide and open, glistening and effulgent

 

I used to think that living without you

Would be the hardest thing

But now I found out something new

I’ve finally learned to live.