Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Spiritual Reading Mashup

The other day I was sitting on the couch somewhat out of sorts, lamenting still that things shouldn't be different. Tears came to my eyes and I looked up and saw a moth silhouette inside the lamp shade which looked like a heart to me. Then I turned at random in St. Faustina's diary and read:
"My daughter, why are you weeping? After all, you yourself offered to undertake these sufferings."
It was true. Several weeks ago I offered a little prayer to Jesus at Mass, "Jesus, I trust in you. Whatever suffering you have for me, I accept." But, you see, a promise and valiant effort made in the spirit of consolation feels different when you begin to actually experience the suffering. I wanted to take my mind off of this, so I opened my Nook and got a little urge to begin reading The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur which I haven't picked up in almost a year. There was this passage for me:
"It is a suffering sent from God which I offer to Him, that among all the beloved friends surrounding me, I should have no one to whom I might open my heart in saying to him or her, "Look," and who might understand and help me. But perhaps to hear one's own ideas and beliefs perpetually criticized, to know them misunderstood, to have prejudice and ignorance against one, is to some extent to suffer persecution for justice's sake."
Several days passed and I was thinking about the same sufferings again. I got an urge to read Interior Castle and this one hit me right over the head:
"And yet they become restless, for they cannot do as they would like to and control their feelings all at once. Yet oh, dear me! Are these not the same persons who some time ago were meditating upon how the Lord suffered, and upon what a good thing it is to suffer, and who were even desiring to suffer?"
Whomp! That was a sound of some books hitting me in the head. I constantly have to remind myself that my expectations easily go askew and I start behaving as though God owes me something. Nope! I gotta be like the lady with the hemorrhage, grateful to touch the the merest hem of his cloak.

Friday, January 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Smiley Things

This post will have to be rather cosmopolitan, these are the things that made me smile this week!

Charlotte Lucas on Marriage
"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life." Pride and Prejudice, Chapter VI."
Marriage can be quite vexing, but luckily we have the grace of God and intercession of our sisters in Heaven to aid us along! Since starting my gratitude journal, things keep looking better and better.

Hanging a Cross and Sacred Heart

My brother got me this wood cross for Christmas and I finally hung it up on my turquoise wall! Love the color contrast. Also placed an image that I made of the Sacred Heart underneath, right below a nightlight.

Noticing Again that the Sacred Heart was Already There

At least they look like Sacred Hearts to me. This is a Mexican mirror that came with the house. I've noticed those before, but they now have a new significance to me ever since I started seeing hearts.

New Veil!

Veils By Lily - Soft Tulle, Mocha
I am so excited about my new veil coming in the mail in a few weeks. I have been wearing a black infinity veil, but I've sometimes thought that it's a little severe. I think this gorgeous tan is more my speed. I was dragging my feet on buying a veil and actually had a different one I'd been eyeing. I'm glad I waited because this is just what I was looking for.
Winter Water Party

The beautiful Lilly taking advantage of an 80 degree day in January and getting all wet playing with toys in water. Le sigh.

Happy Accidents

"We don't make mistakes, only happy accidents" - Bob Ross

Fart Robot Approves

RT @libgnome The cat just jumped into my lap and farted. I feel loved and insulted at the same time. lol. FART ROBOT APPROVES.
This exchange on Twitter made me laugh out loud. I think this Fart Robot automatically approves every tweet with the word "fart" in it. I definitely encourage y'all to try it out.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Am Beautiful

My second resolution this year was to stop hating myself. Instead I would give myself mercy and forgiveness. I would celebrate my gifts and look for positives. When Laura at Catholic Cravings posted this fill-in-the-blanks poem I thought about it for a few days and decided to give it a shot.
I am beautiful.
I am beautiful because I am made in the image of God, who was a light that shined in the darkness. I am beautiful inside and out, for He didn’t just make my soul but my body too. All of me, body and soul, is His image. 
I am beautiful because my hair turns to gold in the sun, my eyes are like pools which delight in blues and greens: they are passionate and colorful as I am. 
And because I have a tan birthmark across my back.
I was beautiful when I painted with watercolors sitting at the picnic table on a bright warm day.
I am beautiful because my calves are too stocky to fit into boots and my hair can frizz in an instant.
I am beautiful like meadow in Colorado on a midsummer day.
I am beautiful when I smile.
I am beautiful when I receive Holy Communion and kneel before Jesus in Adoration. I am beautiful when I laugh and when I mourn, when I pray the O Blood and Water, whispering "I trust in You" to Him who is so beautiful. 
I am beautiful when I wear my striped maxi skirt and blue rose earrings.
I was beautiful even when I did not see it. Though I hid in my closet and cried over my thunder thighs, I was beautiful.
I am beautiful still.
I don’t know whether my eyes are doves behind my veil, or my hair like a flock of goats descending from Gilead. But in my own way, my own Rachel-way, I am beautiful. Perhaps, I am beautiful like mockingbird sitting on an ivy-laden or like a tiny star twinkling through the boughs of a swaying tree.
I am definitely not beautiful because I am perfect. I am not perfect, inwardly or outwardly. I have flaws enough.
But I am beautiful.
For I am loved by God, and love is in my heart, and where there is love:
there is beauty.

Seeing Hearts: Quirky Miracles

I have been seeing hearts everywhere for about a month. It all started when I noticed a little tiny heart that appeared on a bead of my rosary. I don't know where it came from, what it's made out of, or when exactly it appeared. One day I noticed it there as I was spinning the bead as I prayed. I took it as a little gift from God. It made me happy and I would smile every time I saw it.

The second heart that I noticed was cemetery Sacred Heart.

Since then there have been other hearts. Let's see...there was ketchup heart, wood knot heart, tree shape heart, texture chipped away from ceiling heart, oatmeal lid heart, shadow heart, actual hearts that I happen to glance at at the perfect moment as I pass by. I take them as little miracles which point me toward greater devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I look at it as Mary leading me straight to Jesus, and now Jesus keeps reminding me to keep looking at his love and mercy.

What's funny is that before seeing these little hearts everywhere I had absolutely NO interest in the Sacred Heart. At all. I would see blog posts about the devotion, and I would say to myself, "I admire their devotion, but I'm just not into that." (Right at this moment I looked down and saw pencil shaving heart, haha). This is the same way that God got my attention with St. Faustina and Divine Mercy. Of course, it could all be coincidence, but I choose to live in a state of expectation of Providence. :)

I can't tell you what's happening with it at this moment. I haven't done much reading about the Sacred Heart, only drawn 2 images of it. I do hope that God will keep sending me hearts. I think that it's very important for me to know about the love and mercy of Jesus because when I was studying Christianity and first converted, I saw Jesus more for His righteous judgment than his compassion. Reading the gospels he always seemed a little harsh to me. I could picture him gazing at me with disapproval more easily than I could imagine looking on me with love.

Drawn in Draw Something 2 app on my phone about 4 months ago. Don't know why I drew it.
Drawn with chalk pastels 2 days ago and hung in my bathroom :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Merciful Heart

Last Sunday I sat in a pew next to the image of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. My proximity seemed deeply significant, and not only because I was wearing a veil. I did not mean to choose a word for the year, in fact I've never done it before. It is becoming increasingly clear that God has assigned me a word, and that word is MERCY.

A few days after Christmas a friend of my husband's came over to visit for the evening. We were talking about Christmas gifts. He bought his girlfriend a compound bow for Christmas and she's been practicing archery shooting hay bales behind their apartment complex for the sheer joy of it. He asked me, "so did you get anything cool, anything that you really wanted for Christmas?" I had to admit that I hadn't, but to myself all I could think was, "I don't think anyone knows me well enough to get me something that I really want." Physically I am often alone, but true loneliness comes from being emotionally stranded on your own desert island. A lack of intimacy is a great poverty.
"The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me"- Psalm 50:23
Last week I thanked God for my constant loneliness as I asked Him to show me a purpose for it. What immediately came to mind was that in bearing loneliness myself, I can see and understand the loneliness of others. Yesterday I typed #beautiful into Instagram and what came up were mostly selfies. Women trying to look beautiful or sexy and men trying to look physically handsome. All looking into the camera with begging eyes, adding hash tags in the hope that someone would look at them and really see. Inside the beauty, what I saw was thick, sticky and desperate loneliness in the guise of self confidence and assurance. I felt my heart go out to these people who are lonely in the midst of a crowd like I am, and thought of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the image of Divine Mercy. Jesus is just waiting to bathe each of us in a shower of mercy and true love. Our bodies are made to be gifts to one another, but often I have found myself looking pleadingly for other people to be a gift to me. As long as we are all looking inward, we cannot provide the mercy of understanding to  the people around us who are so desperate to be seen. I hope that God will give me the grace this year to see others as Jesus sees them, really see the person and not just the front that everything is okay.

An added facet to that is that I have to be authentically myself in my marriage and be merciful to my husband in those moments in which my authentic self is rejected. I have to show him the love and mercy of Christ always, as I can imagine Jesus looking upon my husband and imploring him to open his eyes and accept grace.
"Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord,  rest upon me." Divine Mercy in My Soul, 163.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lumen Fidei: A Review

I admit I took my time to let my thoughts ferment before writing this review. I finished reading the encyclical a few weeks ago but couldn't fathom how to follow all the little thoughts that I had as I read it. It was a great temptation not to highlight every other sentence while reading because Lumen Fidei was short, but packed tight with little gems! With that said, I will approach this review from the perspective of one of the lay faithful and how the words of Lumen Fidei apply to me in my vocation as wife and mother. Several months before reading Lumen Fidei, I read this quote from the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes:
"This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. Long since, the Prophets of the Old Testament fought vehemently against this scandal and even more so did Jesus Christ Himself in the New Testament threaten it with grave punishments. Therefore, let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other." Gaudium et Spes, 43.
It stuck with me precisely because I recognize that one of my particular challenges as a Christian is to live a life of integrity, to let my faith infuse all that I do so that there is no disconnect between the way that I treat people or behave in different spheres of my life. One of the ideas that Pope Francis in Lumen Fidei stretches out is the idea that faith in Jesus Christ and dedication to the Truth to which faith testifies should actually illuminate a person's whole life and path forward. One of the first paragraphs that I underlined in Lumen Fidei was:
"Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants." Lumen Fidei, 13.
This quote completely described my life pre-conversion. My forward motion in life was based on learning new hobbies and collecting new experiences. The moments seemed unconnected and random, just a way to fill the time for the sake of distraction. When I came to faith, I began to look at everything in my life through this particular lens of God which brought my life into focus. This seems to be the exact opposite of the way secular types would like for Christian people to view the world. We are pressured constantly to take our religion out of the public sphere and keep it within the walls of our churches, to live a compartmentalized life. It's very easy to yield to that pressure, but Pope Francis reminds us that the Gospel is a light which we need to share with others. It leads us outside of ourselves and contributes to the greater good.

This encyclical had a lot to offer in its relative few pages, and I admit that I may have to read through again to let everything sink in. You can read Lumen Fidei for free here, but I sure appreciated having a hard copy to write in and underline!

I received this book for free through Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Picking Up Pins

The third time I heard this quote from St. Therese, I took notice.

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all other ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul."

I've always agreed that it's powerful to do little things with great love, but I never truly understood it or always practiced it. God seemed so distant, so huge and powerful and remote from me in my little comings and goings. Despite my knowledge to the contrary, I kept looking for God in the glory of thunder and lightning rather than the gentle breezes or tiny inconsequential little flowers. My gratitude journal is helping me change that. It's helping me to reflect on God throughout the day, offering up little prayers of thanks and trust in Jesus. Prayer is becoming integrated in my day. God speaks to me in the details. God truly is found among the pots and pans, if only I seek him there. Too often I don't make an effort to seek him. I let myself feel defeated. I feel as though prayer is futile and that I'm just a sad, lonely person losing hope.

Yesterday I read this in St. Faustina's Diary:
"I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer: 'O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in you.'"
 It struck me that this prayer is such a simple thing. This simple prayer in trust to Jesus could have such a massive effect for someone else. It brought me back to thinking about mustard seeds. Then the gospel reading for today let me reflect on it again.
"A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
'If you wish, you can make me clean.'
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him, 
'I do will it. Be made clean.'
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean." Mark 1:40-45
The leper reached out in bold, yet childlike trust in Jesus and Jesus blessed him for it. We are all lepers. We are disfigured by sin and selfishness. I must remember to trust always, despite my sin. God desires to heal us all if only we will trust him to look upon our infirmity with compassion rather than condemnation. We must always remember to reach out. Nobody needed that lesson more than I did. To live a life of abandonment I have to remember that God can use every little detail of my life for my sanctification and to trust in His providence in every situation!

Today I thought of these things as I cleaned the kitchen. With each clean dish that I put away I murmured, "Jesus, I trust in you" or "Thank you, Jesus." The same with each dirty dish that I loaded into the dishwasher. It turned the drudgery that I always groan to do into a prayerful experience. I hope and trust that my little sacrifice will make a difference for someone.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rudimentary Art

I challenged myself in my last post to start doing art again without worrying about whether or not it's actually good. Last week I hurried off to Hobby Lobby and purchased an $8 set of chalk pastels and a fancy eraser. I already had some paper. The real challenge was deciding what type of art supplies to purchase with my tiny little budget. I would like to get some oil paints some time soon, but I do remember that I enjoyed using pastels in middle school and so that's what I got for now. Using pastels again has been fun, but I remember now that they bother me because it's hard to get very detailed with a big, fat piece of chalk. Here are my little doodles this week. The first jar is very rough, but I only spent about 15 minutes on it. I still kinda like the look of it. The second one I experimented and achieved the wavery glass look that I was going for. The third one I spent a couple of hours doing, but I'm not sure I like it. I think I shouldn't have added the palm branch. I do like how the roses came out, though. Sigh.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Second Resolution

I made two resolutions for this year. The first was to cultivate more joy in my life through the written recognition of gratitude. The second resolution has been to stop hating myself, especially when it comes to the stream of condemnation that comes to me from my own mind. I've come to realize over the past couple of years since I came to Christ that the condemnation is almost a sick pleasure that I have used to paralyze myself from moving forward rather than do something productive. It sounds so stupid and strange to say that, but I've been forced to admit that it's true. It's something I've been battling for as long as I've been deep down savoring it. I decided this year that I'm not going to let myself sink into and savor that kind of hate-speak, and that I'm going to recognize it and shut it down before it starts. So far so good.

I realized that another part of that is to identify my true talents and things that bring me real joy, rather than things that I do to emulate someone else, make myself more interesting, indulge in idle curiosity or distract myself. I've wasted a lot of time in distraction. I want to focus on hobbies that are really meaningful to me, stripped down to my roots.

Several days ago as I was chopping onions it hit me suddenly that God has given me artistic talent which I have totally wasted since high school. My senior year I was taking four art classes. Four. Seriously. I loved it.

Now I use my creative energies in crafts which I've learned: knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing. The difference is, I follow patterns for those things. They offer joy of completion, but they are not really original and perhaps some creativity is not being used. I have absolutely no interest in creating patterns. I've put forth a considerable effort into learning to play clawhammer banjo. I do like playing sometimes, but I know I don't have musical talent. My banjo playing is built on muscle memory and sweat. Something I learned just to prove that I could. I don't have any particular desire to push the limits and get better. I can play Cluck Old Hen and some other happy songs and that's enough.

I realized as I was chopping onions that I stopped doing art because I felt like a poser. Other people were better. Other people were real artists. I'll never get anywhere with it. I totally lost the memory of the way it made me happy to make art. I hated myself and I amputated something that came natural, like breathing, to me.

I think it's time to get back to the basics of Rachel. Art, reading, reflection, laughing, nature and prayer.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jesus Saves

What I love most about praying the joyful mysteries of the rosary is its undeniable pro-life, pro-individuality message. I think about Mary, theotokos, Mother of God. She was created specifically without sin and formed to be the mother of Jesus. She had the free will to refuse the task, but being without sin I have to believe that she naturally, intuitively sought to fulfill the purpose for which she was created. For all time she is the mother of Jesus and the adoptive mother of Christians. I think of John the Baptist leaping for joy in the womb of St. Elizabeth, created to precede and announce Christ, from the womb fulfilling his Earthly mission. And there's Jesus. My God, my savior! Whose very name means "God Saves." What I haven't realized until now is that each person was created for an ongoing mission, and not only a one time event. Jesus's "saving" of people is often more of a process than an ultimate destination.

I'm not sure I can really explain what I'm talking about to anyone else, but I wanted to write this down in my words lest I forget. If I'm to live my life in abandonment to divine providence, then I have to believe that every moment is a gift of grace which God can use to make me more holy. I just have to look to Him and trust Him to teach me in each situation. I have to follow the nudges from the Holy Spirit.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
He is my shepherd. He continues to lead me and direct me. I just have to listen for his voice, trust in his Divine Mercy and continually give thanks. Salvation is a journey. Not an easy journey, but a journey none the less. Over and over again I see that He has been leading me, even before I wanted to be led. I was a dumb, oblivious ewe who thought she was a smart, independent one. Now I am the same dumb ewe looking for direction rather than wandering off after treacherous, tempting pastures. I know I can still go astray after whims and fancies, but I hope that I am more aware of that now.

When I was looking into Quakerism I sought to listen to the Light. I tried to be aware of inspirations. Several times while I was listening for the light in silence I got the urge to kneel. I couldn't understand it as Quakers don't do that sort of thing. Still, I kept getting that urge and I tried to ignore it because it didn't fit with my preconceived Quaker notions. Another time I was driving toward the Quaker Meeting in San Antonio and I had this huge urge to pull into a church that I passed along the way. When I drove past and saw that it was a Catholic Church I brushed it off and thought, "surely, God can't be calling me in there." I never did stop in.

Today I was researching places to attend a traditional Latin Mass in San Antonio and saw that it's celebrated at the same Catholic Church that I passed that time on the way to the Quaker Meeting house. I had to laugh a little, and then I saw that the Mass is celebrated by a priest from the Mission of Divine Mercy in New Braunfels. The Divine Mercy third order is called "Amici Christi", friends of Christ. Quakers call themselves "Friends". Wouldn't it be funny if God was calling me to be Amici Christi someday, and I could be a Friend, but in a different way than I ever conceived? All I can ask is that my God, my God who saves, keeps leading me even when I am clueless and deep in "important" sheepy business.

P.S. I just found this quote from John Henry Newman. It basically expresses everything that I was thinking, except he says it, you know, clearly. 

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.
2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. 
3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about. 
O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.
P.P.S. I found this passage as I was reading Divine Mercy in My Soul about 45 minutes after writing the above:
"A noble and delicate soul, even the most simple, but one of delicate sensibilities, sees God in everything, finds Him everywhere, and knows how to find Him in even the most hidden things. It finds all things important, it highly appreciates all things, it thanks God for all things, it draws profit for the soul from all things, and it gives all glory to God. It places its trust in God and is not confused when the time of ordeals comes. It knows that God is always the best of Fathers and makes little of human opinion. It follows faithfully the faintest breath of the Holy Spirit; it rejoices in this Spiritual Guest and holds onto Him like a child to its mother. Where other souls come to a standstill and fear, this soul passes on without fear or difficulty." -St. Faustina. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Everything is Grace

The hike toward the trailhead!
One day in March of 2008 I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. It was during my first week and I had discovered that things were a lot harder than I thought they would be. My knees began aching sharply within the first few hours. I was developing blisters. Dinners included rehydrated noodles, stuffing and a bits of trailmix. I was surrounded by astounding beauty, but many times my focus was on my aching body as I tried earnestly to take one more step up hill or down on malfunctioning knees. That day I was hiking in the rain through the valleys and hills amid rocks slick and slimy with moss. The day was grey and I felt lonely. I was alone. There was no patch of sunlight filtering through the leaves in which to find solace. I distinctly remember hiking along in this droll mood when another hiker walking jauntily up the trail behind me with his dog passed and we spoke a moment. I said something like, "you picked a day like today to come hiking?" He said that he was a thru-hiker a few years ago and that the trail was beautiful whether in rain or sunshine, and that if it bothered me much then I might not make it to Katahdin. I felt defensive at the time. What, don't I have the right to complain about even the weather? But he was right. My perspective had the power to determine whether or not I could persevere through 2000 miles of the rough terrain or allow discouragement to send me home. I was home after 204.5.

Reading Lumen Fidei is helping me see life in the proper light. The first star I placed in the encyclical was to underline this paragraph:
"Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants." - Lumen Fidei, 13
I underlined it precisely because I felt that it perfectly framed the tangled appearance of my life before encountering the light of Christ. Life seemed a series of unconnected instants in which I sought an endless parade of new pleasures and challenges. The avoidance of suffering was the supreme virtue, and yet for a reason I could not explain I also yearned to be tested against suffering. Without keeping my eyes fixed on the transcendent and powerful God man who gives purpose to suffering, I found myself quickly losing resolve every time I faced a tough moment.

In my teacher classes I met an atheist Jew. He was a great person. Funny and articulate, an outdoor enthusiast. He told me that his father was in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Something about him stuck with me and though I never talked in depth to Rene again, I kept thinking about Judaism and atheism throughout the weeks of training. I happened to listen to a Catholic Answers podcast about atheism and a caller asked about why so many Jews are atheists. The guest responded that in his experience many became atheists because they could not comprehend how God could allow something like the Holocaust to happen to the chosen people. I kept thinking about how Corrie Ten Boom and Saints Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe grew in faith through tragedy while others lost what faith they had. I can't help but think that faith brings its own light. Like Lumen Fidei asserts, believing is understanding. Faith puts things into focus. Focus on God and His path which leads sometimes one illuminated step at a time into the unknown. A faith in the God who keeps his promises and always works for the good of those who love him, even when the good is a little hard to see with our selfish human perspectives.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22
Months ago I was walking and thinking about how joy has to be chosen. There was a moment then that I desperately asked the Lord, "do you even want us to be happy?!" He has since helped me see how to choose joy! I have spent too much of my life complaining and taking things for granted, seeing things negatively instead of making an effort to trust God and look for the good and rejoice in every circumstance. I've reflected on some aspects of this here and here. I decided several weeks ago that for this new year, I would write down one little blessing each day in a journal so that I could have a collection of sweet little glimpses of God's face. Later, I somewhat providentially stumbled upon this book:

After reading some of the book, I decided to modify my New Year's resolution to list not one item per day, but to fill up an entire journal with a list of little blessed nothings. I started early, and since Monday I am up to 77 blessings! It's such a joy to do already. Much better than a weight loss resolution, I tell you! The words of St. Therese keep coming to me unbidden, "Everything is Grace". I truly want to learn to live that in my life this year. I aspire to live an integrated life. A life of abandonment to divine providence (I even picked up a book of the same title). A life open to seeing God in hints and whispers, soft breezes, cats' meows and glorious nature. I want to be at peace with myself, my life, my limitations, my bank account. Live in the moment. Live for God today and believe in my heart that everything is grace.

My inscription in the front of my new journal.