Why there are no professional pictures of me as a five-year old

The great hearts have a stubbornness about them,
a determination to keep loving
when it seems to make no difference,

a disbelief in every lie
that speaks against hope,
and a willingness to waste their lives

for the sake of others.
Thank God for their inability to give up
and leave empty-handed,

for that thing inside them
that doesn’t want to believe in failure
every time they hit the ground.

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Sometimes we need a good shove from behind in life.

I have to admit, I don’t always have the best reaction when someone pushes me into something that I don’t think I’m ready for.  Usually my gut reaction is anger.  At least that’s what I’ve been discovering lately.  Already anxious because I don’t feel confident in my abilities or purpose, and already giving myself a hard time for not being where I want to be, I push back (at least in my emotions) when someone else puts more pressure on me.  As someone who gives %100 consistently because I don’t like missing the mark or expectations, it irks me when someone says that isn’t enough.

But we all need a good shove.

And a lesson in humility.  Something tells me Jesus took it a lot better when his mom pushed him into his ministry and the start of his vocation at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-12).  He knew it wasn’t quite the time for his main purpose to be revealed to the world, but Mary (probably via the Holy Spirit) knew that it was the right time for people to see another side of him than just a carpenter from Nazareth.  So she stepped in and gave him an unlooked for opportunity for action.  And it was from that miracle that his disciples first believed in him and his glory was first revealed.  But what if he had shrunk back from that moment?

How often do we sit back in the comfort of waiting for the right time or waiting until we’re just a little bit better at something before we jump in to using our strengths and weaknesses?

Here’s what I’m learning right now:  God calls us when we’re not ready.  Because the point is not being ready.  The point is that what God is calling us to is what will grow us into who we’re meant to be.  You don’t need to be ready for or even feel competent in what God is calling you to do.  You just have to trust Him enough to say yes.

And have the wisdom to see that He knows what He’s doing with you.  Our fear and doubt and anxiety can’t see further than the moment that we’re in.  But God sees the heart and the soul that has tremendous capabilities for growth.  And sometimes He will shove us into the moments that will catalyze our lives.

Fall in Love

Fall in Love

Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

– See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/fall-in-love#sthash.Ispnai4W.dpuf

Not to take away from the importance of loving God [first], but I think it’s worth saying that falling in love with another person and staying in love, changes your life dramatically as well.

This lower case “l” falling in love in marriages and long-term relationships decides how you live your life –where you go and how you spend your time.  In all its heartaches and joys and unexpected moments, it changes you and how you love the world.  Falling in love and staying in love, a life-long endeavor, molds you into a new person.

I guess this is my letter to all those who are not married but who are called nonetheless, who are afraid or think that they do not need this irreversible relationship in their lives.

Falling in love and staying in love is for your good.  It is not about being loved, but rather your love for someone else changing you in an absolute and final way.

I don’t think we think about that enough –how will me loving someone else change my heart for the better? — regardless of how the relationship turns out or how this other person receives this love.  How will this act of being other-centered and constantly shaping my life around this other person change me?

Don’t be afraid to be changed.  Don’t be afraid to fall in love and stay in love.

God Bless Our Love

God bless our love

from a tiny mustard seed in your hand

before we even knew

planted in darkness but covered in hope

small shoots of courage breaking through

and young limbs reaching out to the world

to a giant tree

branches supporting all the rest

creaking and holding life

birds flying from their leafy perches

blessed and growing

like the vines of an olive plant

build this house to be strong

this love to be rooted in You

serving Your purpose

majestic

and bringing glory to You

God bless our love

Pentecost

Today the trees look like coral reefs

bending and swaying,

twisting and free,

and the clouds roll steadily by

like the calm of waves moved along the surface

miles above.

.

A mighty wind is moving through,

twisting and tugging,

touching everything within

its sphere.

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A breath, a whisper, a flame.

but a roar within

-the Spirit renews the face of the earth

by working marvels underneath.

How I Look at Myself Differently After Losing Weight

The contours of my face have changed.  Where before there were rounded edges and softened corners, now underlying bone structures surface and nuances of muscle and movement create new character and definition.

It’s strange to watch something so familiar to you change, to be surprised by your own face.  I’ve had to compose a different self-portrait, now that I can more clearly see the framework of who I am.

For me, losing weight has only been part of the journey of discovering who I want to be, or rather, who God is calling me to be.  For a lot of people, losing weight is the means of making themselves into someone different, moving from someone they don’t like to someone that they think is more loveable –to themselves and others.

I never set out, in fact, to make myself happier by changing the shape of my body.  I already knew that I had value and worth and importance no matter what I looked like or weighed, or who was or was not attracted to me.  I already knew that I was loved for who I was, though that was a relatively new thing for me even then.  I had lived many years before that in insecurity and disbelief that I was loveable, or even likeable.  But at this point in the game, I had reached the point that I was secure in the knowledge that I liked who I was –the things that made me me.

So why did I do it?

Well, it started out with God wanting to teach me about hope and perseverance.  I woke up one day and knew that it was time to start running.  –I’d been walking to get some form of daily exercise, but had no plans or desire to change that to running in the least.  But, that morning, there was something with authority inside me saying that today was the day, and that it was time to start learning firsthand what hope really meant and why perseverance was so essential.

Sometimes God takes you completely by surprise.

So I started running –more walking than running in the beginning, until I could build up enough stamina to run a mile without stopping, and I started looking for truth instead of believing every negative thought that crossed my mind until I could start believing with growing confidence that there was something to be hopeful about solely because God was working in my life.  And I haven’t stopped since.

The crazy thing is, once I discovered that I could do it, I realized that I actually enjoyed running.  Time for being alone and exploring outside and letting my thoughts turn over along with the music in my ears?  Sounds perfect.  And the funny thing is, once you start believing in God’s goodness and the hope He has for you, the easier it is to see the truths about yourself and simultaneously unmask the fears and doubts that prevent you from living.

But just like every other area of my life, I like a challenge.  So I started running farther, exploring new, more difficult routes.  The neighborhood behind my old apartment complex in St. Louis was all hills.  It took convincing myself every morning that it was a good idea to finish strong by tackling the steepest one.  And now I’m training for a half marathon.  Each weekend is pushing through one more mile by grit alone.  But that’s training –stretching yourself to go a little farther than you think you can, building up strength and muscle and endurance, and mental stamina.

Now, looking in the mirror, I see someone so much stronger.  The potential had always been there before, but it had never been drawn out.  It took God’s wisdom to say ‘now is the time to work on these things in you.’

Running, and a few other things in life, have built me up into a person that can hope in a future that is still too far off to see, believe that every hurt or broken piece is being used by God to change me into someone greater than I was before, trust that God is for me and working things for good even when I can’t see it, and know that I have a place and a purpose that is being revealed with every step I take closer to God.  –That is strength to me: to hope, believe, trust, and know God.

Losing weight has just been a byproduct.  And I think, when done right, more people than not discover that the real quest in losing weight is not, in fact, shedding pounds, but uncovering who they have been all along but couldn’t find underneath all the doubt and fear and shame.

And I think, if it’s not losing weight, than it’s something else that God uses to draw us out from our lesser selves and show us the strength and beauty we’ve had buried so deep that we’ve forgotten how to believe that we could be those things.

I don’t have a goal weight or a certain size that I’m working towards.  I’m not working towards anything but becoming stronger.  I will always have stretch marks.  But to me they are not ugly or unseemly, they are marks of how I have changed, how far I have come from the person that I used to be.  I don’t want to lose them.  I don’t need to look perfect, whatever that is.  I would rather have peace and security that I am enough, that how I love and who I am is of more worth than how I fill out a dress or how flat my stomach is.  I know that I am so much more than how I look.

It took a while to get used to seeing a different shape in the mirror, to realize that I looked markedly different than before, to have a different self-image (not better or worse, just different).  It took a while to view myself differently –for my brain to comprehend that people look at me differently, that people who didn’t know me before I lost weight have a different impression of me than those who did.  But then, too, I am a markedly different person on the inside than I used to be, and people will get a different impression of me regardless of what I look like.

That’s what I see when I look in the mirror.  The different curves and indentations in my cheekbones are nothing compared to the strength of spirit I see behind my eyes.  So if you catch me staring at my reflection, it’s because I’m marveling at what God has done with me.

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“Your love and mercy build and shape us
Break and then recreate us now
Lord have mercy”  -Gungor “We Will Run”