You know, I never took people seriously when they said that exposing yourself to negative, morally questionable content brings you down spiritually. Kind of stupid of me, right? All I know is that over the past week or so, I’ve … Continue reading
Just a reminder that you and I serve a wonderful, merciful, omnipotent God. His love is unconditional and all-consuming. He also knows that we, as mere human beings, cannot begin to understand the implications of His love and mercy, so … Continue reading
I really feel like I need to write about my experiences at CAMP-of-the-WOODS, a Christian camp in upstate New York. I worked there for three weeks in August, and it was an eye-opener in many ways. I think while there, I finally heard that call from God I’ve been waiting on, but strangely He was calling me away from the camp. I’ll elaborate, I promise.
So, my family has vacationed in Speculator, NY, for the last two summers. We spend a week at the aforementioned CAMP-of-the-WOODS, an outdoorsy, evangelical experience one man described as “Christian Disneyland.” My parents had been bugging me to get a job, and they thought a faith-based place like COTW was my perfect niche. I had some concerns about the camp’s “nondenominational” Christian affiliation because experience has taught me that “nondenominational” is a misleading synonym for “assorted Protestant”. Still, I agreed to go on the camp site and fill out the application. That in itself was a daunting task. Lots of essay-style questions about my faith, my current relationship with Jesus Christ, favorite Scripture verses, etc.—I had to stop myself from citing Tobit at one point, hahahaha. But before I could hit “submit”, I had to agree to the Seven Non-negotiable Essentials of CAMP-of-the-WOODS. Yep, they pledge allegiance to sola scriptura, sola fide and all sorts of Catholic no-nos in there. You don’t know how badly my conscience ached clicking “agree”, but I gave in anyway.
They were excited to hire me as a teaching assistant for the Christian Education program. I was specifically designated as an aide to special needs children, but in the absence of special needs kids, they had me work as a floater, taking on a few different jobs. My first week, I worked as a teaching assistant with the kindergarteners. I loved them all, they were so precious and sweet. I thought the week would go by without incident, but one day, the Bible lesson was about the Last Supper and Crucifixion, and what the teacher said made my skin crawl. She explained to the children how Jesus was speaking figuratively when He said that the bread and wine were His Body and Blood—a way of foreshadowing that He was about to die for us on the cross. I was half-tempted to give in to instinct and aggressively defend the truth of the Eucharistic Mystery, but I knew that would be wildly out of place. I sat there silently, red in the face and shaking with unspoken conviction. That was a painful day. Another time, some girls gossiped about who was and wasn’t “saved”. It seemed to me that putting so much stock in predestination, by necessity, indicated little faith in God’s gift of free will. I saw other, lesser offenses over the course of my time there, but the ones that stick out to me are the ones I have listed.
In any case, being at COTW made me anxious—homesick, actually, not for Baltimore but for my Catholic Church and the truth She offered. My work schedule was jampacked, and I hadn’t been able to attend Mass in weeks. I didn’t even have a Rosary or a Catholic Bible with me. I did take comfort in singing hymns like Ave Verum Corpus and Haily Holy Queen, but I had to sing those quietly. I could feel my faith being stifled and suffocated in a place where things as innocent as Crucifixes and making the Sign of the Cross are taboo.
Then one day, things got better. This is an excerpt from my diary:
Yesterday was beautiful. I heard Your call, and I only pray that You will give me the grace to answer it.
I don’t know where to begin. I do know that a) you spoke to me very clearly in that empty church yesterday, and b) You want me directly in Your ministry, somehow. Also, I understand that CAMP-of-the-WOODS has been a learning experience, leading me to a greater destination. My decision to work here this summer has been absolutely crucial to my spiritual development, though it has told me that COTW is not my place. I’ve learned exactly what I’m not.
I took a long walk yesterday, through the empty town of Speculator. I didn’t know where I was going, but something deep inside me knew that if I walked far enough, I would find You. Here at COTW, they speak Your name, they sing Your praises, they read from Your own words, and yet they don’t know You. They don’t know what they’re missing, but being here, I felt that nagging absence eating at me and challenging my faith.
Lord, I was so inexplicably afraid and desperate while I walked. I knew that I needed to find a Catholic church, that somehow that would bring me back home. On the way, I just prayed to myself, over and over:
O my Jesus,
forgive us our sins,
save us from the fires of hell,
and lead all souls to Heaven,
especially those in most need of Thy mercy.
I’m not usually one for repetitive prayer. Now that I think about it, the only other time I remember praying like that was that infamous night on a red-eye flight to Los Angeles with Dad. I was so scared, Lord. I couldn’t stop crying, and all the while, I could do nothing but pray to You and beg to be sent home as soon as we arrived to LAX. You didn’t send me home, Lord. You kept me there all week and strengthened my resolve. By the time I got back home, I knew I was not going to see my dad for a long time. It’s a harsh thought, but I know it was Your will. You gave me healing in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Lord, You’ve never failed me.
Yesterday, I went into the empty church, and immediately, I knew I was home. The smell of holy water and offertory candles brought me back and put my restless soul to rest for the first time in years, I think. I cried a little in the pews, Lord. I heard You, I felt You, and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I cried because I’d forgotten the feeling of Your mercy and unconditional love. I cried realizing that You would choose me, a pained, wayward sinner like me, to serve You. The fact that this has been Your plan all along, Lord…incredible. In some ways, I think I really did believe that I was too far gone. Your grace is real, Lord, without a doubt, and it has the strength to melt the ice I’ve been holding in my heart for the last few years. I’ve found You again, and I love You, really and truly, not with words or with fuzzy feelings but with the whole of my existence and personhood. You have enraptured my soul, and I really, truly do sing Your name in the depths of me. I thought You were gone, a pretty fancy of my earlier years, but HERE YOU ARE. You’ve been here all along.
Lord, let me be only Yours.
Long and rambling and incoherent, I know. But God came to me, and I want everyone to know that He will not hesitate to come to You if you just let Him. Take the time, make the effort, sit in an empty chapel or quiet yourself with a Bible. You will hear His voice.
Followers of mine, I love each and every one of you. Have a wonderful night and remember that Jesus loves you.
I always go MIA for long periods of time, then come back suddenly. I guess you’re all used to that by now. I guess a lot has happened, and I really do need to “restaple” my heart to Christ. It’s been a hard year, but I’m ready to stop living in fear that I’m somehow beyond God’s reach. Depression, eating disorder, anxiety, Dad leaving me—my God is greater than the sum of my fears. Just a stream of consciousness prayer I wrote to God today:
I ask You constantly for things I can’t even comprehend, so I’m going to humble my prayers to layman’s terms. I’m looking for Your peace, Lord, first and foremost. I pray that You will help me to quiet the intrusive, fear-stricken voices in my head so that I may listen to You instead and come to hear the quiet words You whisper into my heart. I trust that You’ll bring me back to Your arms, Jesus, and I promise You that I will, by the help of Your grace, let Your gentle, loving voice lead me back home. I’m a little lost right now, Jesus, but I will not give up. I love You more than I can understand, and, if nothing else, I will always stretch my arms toward You as You pull me back to shore. Again, I’ll say it, Jesus: I love You. I’ll give You my nothing if it’s all I have.
Out of context, I’m sure this prayer is pretty incoherent, but in light of my faith life as of late, I feel like it says all that I’ve been wanting to say to God.
I’ve always loved being a Confirmation peer, but I don’t think I ever realized just how much it matters to me. I really do think that leading people to Jesus and faith is the greatest joy in my life. Right now, I’m so at peace, my heart physically aches, if that’s even possible. Do you ever have moments in your faith when you’re just so incredibly taken by otherworldly joy that your whole being aches for more? I haven’t had a moment like that in a while—until now. Lately, faith has been a struggle to some extent. I’ve been so surrounded by cynicism and bitterness and despair, it seems. So many mixed feelings about my own inadequacy, my guilt, the burden of feeling like nobody’s on my side and I’m fighting an internal faith battle alone.
This past year, I think, I’ve been a little lost. I stopped going to youth group stuff because I was busy or tired or couldn’t get a ride. I couldn’t go on the Confirmation retreat in September, and I’ve been so worried about my sister and her apparent disinterest in faith. But last night, I went to a retreat lock-in for Confirmation peers, and for the first time in months, I felt at peace. I love the people in my church family, I love how close we are, I love the acceptance, I love the giggling and goofing off, I love how dedicated we are, and most of all, I love—with my whole heart, I love it!—seeing and feeling and experiencing God shaping each one of us in beautiful ways. In my experiences as a Confirmation candidate and later as a peer, I’ve seen so many iceberg hearts just melt, so much bitterness fall in surrender to His love for us. In my almost-eighteen years, I’ve never known anything nearly as incredible as being a part of that love and sharing it with others. Lately, I’ve just forgotten that part of me, I guess. I’ve been mixed up about what I want to do with my life, but last night reminded me that He knows just where I belong. I feel so called to actively melt hearts and change people through Jesus’s love. I’m praying that I don’t lose my way again.
Thank You, Lord, for everything. Captivate my heart and lead me to You.
Well, I haven’t blogged in a long time, I know. Things have been pretty crazy, but I’m working them out, little by little. I’m getting better, even though it’s difficult and I sometimes resist the changes. The thing is, in November, on my senior retreat, I told my whole senior class about my eating disorder. I’d never told anyone before, except the priest in the confessional, so I don’t entirely know what, if not Jesus, moved me to speak up about it. So, yeah, my mom found out about my bulimia, which was scary and confusing, but somehow it ended up okay. My school was understanding and helpful, and they were prepared to be flexible as I received treatment. On November 20, I started the day program at the #1 eating disorder treatment center in the country. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week (yes, that meant missing Mass and school). No mirrors, monitored bathroom breaks, intensive therapy, a whole personal treatment team and a super-strict meal plan. I spent five weeks there, and yes, it was crazy and stressful and emotionally draining, but I do think it helped.
I think my attitude really did change. When I got there, I was so consumed with self-loath and guilt. I couldn’t even think about getting better because I was so damn focused on how horrible a person I was. If you’ve ever felt absolute despair, you must know what that’s like. You can’t forgive yourself for your own mistakes, and you certainly can’t bring yourself to ask for God’s forgiveness because you’re soooooo caught up in your own feelings of unworthiness. I just had this attitude of “I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness”—and it’s interesting because I now realize that I’m not sure whether my shame came from extreme humility or extreme pride that kept me from asking for God’s mercy. Regardless, I’ve found it. He came to me while I cried over myself and my own unworthiness. I’m doing my best to remember that God really, truly does love us at our very best and very worst. It’s so important that we allow ourselves to be forgiven, that we are open to God’s saving grace and mercy. Right now, I’m focusing on Psalm 95:
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
No, I can’t think of any situation where this advice wouldn’t help.
– thelightiswhite ♥
I don’t know how to Tuesday. I’m tired. I left my phone at school. Tuesdays, man. No. I don’t know that I have anything important or inspiring to say today, but I thought I should post anyway. I’ve been journaling … Continue reading
I feel ambivalent about everything these days. Just unsure of myself, I guess. These last few weeks at Mass, I’ve just had this burden on my chest, this overwhelming feeling of unworthiness. It physically hurts. I don’t feel like I’m good enough for Your love, Jesus. I feel like I’m just letting you down, like my sins are going to eat away at my faith little by little. It’s terrifying, Lord. I need Your love so much it hurts.
I don’t know what You have waiting for me. I know I’m not supposed to worry about tomorrow, but it’s hard not to worry when everyone around me is moving in such a blur, getting ready for their futures, making plans, writing application essays, seemingly so ready for real life. I don’t know whether I’m ready for what’s to come, Jesus, nor do I know what’s coming. I hope I’m making the right choices, heading in the direction You’re pointing me. Life’s overwhelming me right now, and I need to cling to You.
Lord, what am I supposed to do about the guy? He’s sweet, he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s cute, he likes me. I worry that I’m blinded by all the good and failing to see the bad. Is he pulling me from my faith? The conversations we’ve had, the photos I’ve sent (nothing risque, but not quite modest either). He knows about my faith, he knows about my chastity. He supports it. He’s Jewish, but not too serious about his religion. He’s older than me and he lives far away. He always makes me smile, and I love our Skype calls and his bad puns and pet names. I’m just so confused right now, and I don’t know what I’m doing. I really like him, but I firmly believe that “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” I don’t want to do that, Jesus. I want to listen to Your voice in every area of my life. I can’t give You my full heart while looking for Your loopholes. That’s not who I am, and that’s not who You created me to be.
Jesus, You know that all this is just the beginning of my worries right now, just the tip of the iceberg. I’m just begging for Your help at this point because I fear I’ve lost all direction. Make me humble, Lord, but at the same time, help me to see the good and beautiful in me so I don’t have to rely on boys for validation of my own worth. Please stay with me and help me to listen to Your voice among the crowd. I trust You to lead me home.
“That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
- Lay Your Burdens Down (everydayseekingtruth.wordpress.com)
I’ve missed Mass for about three consecutive weeks now. I don’t like it, really, I don’t. Half the time, the other five people in my family have prior engagements or decide that going is too much of a hassle. Yesterday, though, I was home sick while my family went to Mass. I know it’s not my fault for staying home on a Sunday morning throwing up and feeling miserable, but I still need to make amends. I’m in luck. The first week of every month, the religion class periods are spent in Adoration and there are priests available for Reconciliation. I need that this week.
How’s my faith right now? Good, I think. No worse than usual, at the very least. That doesn’t really satisfy me, though. I want Christ in every part of me, smoothing and refining my rough edges and teaching me to love everyone and everything. Hopefully, this week will lead me closer to Him.