Hate Seems Harsh

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“If you belonged to the world, it would love you its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

These words spoken by Jesus really challenge me. For starters, His choice of the word “hate” seems harsh. He says that since He has chosen us out of the world, the world will hate us. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. As humans, we are social creatures. There is a natural instinct to want to be accepted and understood by our peers. How can I be at peace with the world hating me? What if I’m challenged to speak up, when the easier route would be to stay silent?

What does it even mean to be not of this world? We have no choice but to live, interact and engage with the environment around us; isn’t being of the world inevitable? But if we take a big-picture view of Jesus’ teachings throughout his life, we can see that he offers us another way. He set the example of what it means to not belong to this world and to belong to Heaven instead.

He offers us freedom from the lowly things of the earth, to leave everything behind and to follow Him [Luke 5:11], the One who is constantly calling us back to Himself no matter how far we’ve strayed.

As true and intentional disciples, our confidence does not come from the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the house we live in or other worldly things. Our unshakeable peace and fullest of joys come from what is unseen – from the One in Whom we have made our Home. This is radically different from what our modern culture preaches— that our joy is found in material possessions and conforming to fit in. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. If we are teased, excluded, jeered at, lied about, or made to feel like an outsider, are we brave enough to continue on the path set before us by Jesus Himself?

It isn’t easy to be yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to form you like everybody else. The good news is that we can be encouraged by the ones who have gone before us.

No one was more of an outsider than our Lord Jesus Christ. Many times, even his own friends didn’t understand the reasons for his actions. Sometimes I think that if I was alive during Jesus’s life, I would know him better. But 2000 years later, I have the advantage of knowing how the story ends and connecting the dots; his actions make sense to me. But to his Apostles, most of the story was still a mystery, and so they followed by faith, being ridiculed as social outcasts for it.

I find it comforting that none of the Apostles, despite having Jesus in their midst, felt at home in the world. I’m sure many of the saints felt the same. My prayer for you, and for me, is that when the going gets tough, we don’t just give up in order to be liked by other people or to avoid confrontation.

My prayer is that, when all we want is relief from that deep-rooted ache that is longing for home—our Heavenly Home—that we are strong and let our hearts take courage, all we who wait for the Lord [Psalm 31:24].

The Slippery Slope of Fear

A few days ago, while working on my application for college, I took a quiz on BuzzFeed titled: “What College is REALLY Meant for Me?” (Yes, college applications have me so stressed out, I am turning to BuzzFeed for advice!) One of the questions on the quiz read, ‘What are you most afraid of?” The possible answers ranged from “spiders” and “bears” to “loneliness” and “failure.” And while all of the above scare me to death, I couldn’t help but wonder why a light-hearted, 10-question quiz on BuzzFeed was focusing so intently on fear as a factor upon which to determine a college decision. But after thinking about it more, I realized just how much fear is integrated into our society and how much it directly affects our lives (whether we realize it or not.)

Society feeds off fear; advertisements target insecurities to sell their products all the time. “Is your hair too frizzy? Buy this taming spray and it’ll calm it right down!” “Need to lose weight? This newfangled diet program works wonders!” So many people are OBSESSED with fear! But, as Christians, we have absolutely no reason to be. The most repeated phrase in the whole Bible is “Be not afraid.” Because at the end of the day, what do we have to fear? (As FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”) Don’t get me wrong, life can be scary and sometimes may seem indomitable, but ultimately, literally nothing should drive us to live in fear.

I encourage you to think of one time in your life that being afraid made something less scary. (Seriously, if you can think of a time, I really want to know!) Odds are, there’s been no such time. Fear builds on fear; it is derived from a story we tell ourselves – we are just as fearful as we let ourselves be, so why be afraid? I remember last summer I was in Alaska climbing a glacier with some of my friends. The first time I climbed, I was scared out of my mind. I could only make it about a quarter of the way up, I was so paralyzed in fear, and I was too busy worrying about falling and dying that I forgot to have fun! After every person had a chance to climb the glacier once, our guides offered the chance for a few of us to climb again. I immediately gave a big NO to that opportunity, but one of my friends encouraged me to climb again, now that I knew I was safe. It took some serious coaxing on her behalf, but eventually I had the ice axes back in hand and was making my way up the glacier. I told myself I was strong and I was brave and I was living my best life – free of fear (and that I definitely wasn’t going to fall!) And before I knew it, I was scampering up to the top of the glacier, laughing with my friend who was climbing next to me, and taking in the absolute beauty of the mountains around us that I hadn’t been able to appreciate my first time around. Fear had inhibited me from appreciating the absolute perfection of the world around me and had prohibited me from realizing my strength and ability to conquer the task before me!

Obviously most of us aren’t climbing glaciers every day, but we come in contact with things that evoke fear in us all the time. Whether it is taking a new job, leaving an old school, or standing up for something we believe in when we know we’ll be criticized for it, each day presents its own opportunities to be afraid. But each day also provides us with a new chance to look fear in the eye and decide to choose bravery; to listen to the 365 times in the Bible that God says, “Be not afraid,” and to really take that to heart. 

In ending, I want to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite saints. Pope John Paul II said, “I plead with you – never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid!”

If He Brings You to It, He Will Bring You Through It

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 was a very difficult time for me. I was loving my life at college, and really felt like I belonged there. However, God had other plans for me. Let me back up for a second. When I was four months old I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. This chronic disease can affect several organs; personally, it affects my lungs, sinuses, and pancreas. Because of this, my days are filled with multiple breathing treatments and pills. I will spare you some of the details, but sometimes it can be very difficult. Okay, back to this school year. I began by taking a semester off due to several health issues. Then I spent most of the fall and winter on antibiotics and in the hospital, which resulted in taking a whole year off school. These incidents really hit me hard mentally because even though I have this chronic disease, I have been blessed with fairly good health for the majority of my 21 years.

As a result, my faith life was basically nonexistent and I fell into a dark place. I wish I could say that I leaned on God and trusted in His plan right off the bat, but that was not the case. If I’m totally honest, at first I was confused and hurt, which turned into frustration, and I pushed Him away. It felt like my best friend had betrayed me. So, I started believing the Devil’s lies instead of seeing that perhaps God was using this as part of His plan for me. It took me a long time to recognize that blessings have come out of this trial. But after prolonged self-reflection and prayer, I really started to feel like I was making amends with Jesus. I won't say everything is 100% perfect, because nothing is. However, I am at a place where I want to lean on God during the hard times.

While going through this, a friend mentioned to me Romans 8:28.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The words really stuck with me so I decided to reflect on this more. I personally think this scripture emphasizes that we can always trust the Lord’s goodness, power, and will to do good. We can plan for the future as much as we want, but it ultimately is up to Him. Sometimes this plan doesn’t include what we wish or long for. The reality is that we will experience hardships along the way. However, when we decide to place our trust in His will for us, we will be greatly rewarded. No matter the environment or circumstances, God’s goodness is still present and His purposes will be accomplished. If you are going through some sort of trial right now, I highly encourage you to pray and reflect on bible verses like these. The results might surprise you! Remember, if He brings you to it, He will bring you through it!

A Walk to Remember

Likes.
Shares.
Stories.
Followers.
Friends.

Have you ever thought about what those words mean? Recently, I’ve been thinking about how we’ve constructed a whole vocabulary pertaining to our virtual lives, but just a few short years ago, those words had a different meaning devoid of any social media connotation. Let’s take a walk down pre-social media memory lane for a second.

Like: to take pleasure in; to regard with favor; to have a kindly or friendly feeling for.

Share: to use, to participate in, enjoy, receive, etc. jointly.

Story: a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader.

Follow: a person who follows another in regard to his or her ideas or beliefs; disciple or adherent.

Friend: a person attached to another by feelings or affection or personal regard.

When I compared those traditional definitions to our social media definitions, what I realized is that we’ve created a shallow vocabulary that reflects the superficial nature of our social media lives. I know, a little harsh, but hear me out.

To regard something with favor or to have a kindly or friendly feeling for someone requires taking the time to experience the person or object in order, not mindlessly scrolling and clicking “a thumbs up” or heart button. 

To participate in or to enjoy jointly denotes some kind of intentional activity with an identified other, not clicking a button, unaware of who will actually take the time to view the content just “shared.”

Intentionally and thoughtfully constructing a narrative to elicit responses from readers or listeners is vastly different than a compilation of visual images, posted not so much with the viewer in mind, but with the intention of making the one posting the images look interesting and favorable.

Following another in regard to his or her ideas or beliefs is a far stretch from deciding to follow another because their feed is aesthetically pleasing or simply because you know who they are.

To be a friend requires spending time with the other in person so that feelings, affection and personal regard can arise and attachment can occur. It is not the false belief that you know a person simply because you have viewed all of the details of their online content.

It’s shallow. You and I both know it.

It’s shallow because the way we use those words is just barely skimming the surface of the depth of the people and the world around us. The original meaning of those words are meant to be used when you actually know someone—their personality, character, hopes, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, failures, annoying quirks, childhood memories, and everything in between. The social media world, no matter how much it advances and how much it exposes you to the never-ending news of the world, can never offer you the kind of depth and transparency that your heart desires. That type of knowledge takes time and effort, and face-to-face contact. Because that’s just how the human heart works, friends. It always has and it always will. 

Now, I’m not going on a social media crusade. All I’m asking is that you take it for what it is: a virtual community that pales in comparison to the real world. As always, I’ll leave you with some practical tips.

1. Call it out for being shallow: Social media is shallow. It’s a surface level life. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it, just make sure it’s not your be all, end all.

2. Be an “in person” person: Invest in real life relationships. When you’re with people, put your phone away. Nothing in the virtual world will ever be as interesting and life-giving as the real-life people right in front of you.

3. Fast or limit your social media use: If you’re deep in the social media addiction, fast from it. The Lord tells us in Scripture that if something causes us to sin, we need to get rid of it. If social media is causing you to sin (e.g. self-absorption, pride), then take a break from it. If you’re addiction isn’t that bad or you don’t have a problem with it at all, I still encourage you to limit your time. For example, I have an app on my computer that shuts off social media sites after ten minutes.

Finally, I do recognize that most of you high schoolers are products of the social media era. It’s what you’ve known as normal. But that doesn’t mean you have to concede to a shallow, surface level existence that threatens to rob you of authentic joy and lasting happiness. Have the courage as a Revolutionary for Love to reclaim and live out the true meaning of these sacred, life-giving words: Likes—Shares—Stories—Followers—Friends. And do it not only for your own sake, but for all those who desperately need to know they are accepted, loved, and valued; not in a virtual world, but in reality.

 

For the Beauty of the Earth

I have discovered that 9 a.m. marks the advent of runners, dog walkers, and moms-with-strollers onto the sidewalks of downtown Plymouth, Michigan. Before then, the streets belong to the early people (a proud few of which I am a member), and the emptiness and quiet provide a sort of public privacy.

Because of this, as I meandered through my neighborhood one early morning, I didn’t think twice about singing to myself.

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies

It is an old, traditional hymn – not necessarily exciting or emotional. But sometimes old things last because their message transcends time.

Lord of all, to you we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

Why was I singing an old church hymn to myself as I walked down my own familiar street? Because, I found myself smack dab in the middle of the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies! The wind was tickling the leaves and they were moving through the soft morning light, and the sky was a remarkable blue. It wasn’t the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, but it was truly beautiful, and it stirred things up in my heart. All of it brought me to the One who is most Beautiful. And it filled me up so much that I had to start praising the Maker.

It was the best prayer time I’ve had in a while. I realized even more fully that “the Heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).” That deliciously puffy cloud, that perfect flower, that enormous tree, they are all pointing to God, saying, “LOOK!” So, when you feel like He’s hard to reach, like you can’t hear Him and He seems far away, I challenge you to go find Him and His beauty in creation.

Never fear, ladies! I have some simple suggestions about how to fall in love with nature.

1. Go for a walk. Spend the entire time looking up! Not down at the sidewalk to avoid eye contact with the person passing you, and ESPECIALLY not down at your phone.

2. Lay on the grass under some trees and sky and just watch. For extra inspiration, listen to “Concerning Hobbits” from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and read the poem “A Golden Day” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

3. Take someone you love on a walk to your favorite nature spot. Show them a beautiful place that is meaningful to you!

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…

4. PRAY! Bring your prayer journal to a peaceful outdoor nook or go on a rosary walk!

Don’t miss out on all the glory and inspiration to be found out there! I know there are mosquitos and heat, but there are also little love notes from your Lord written all over the sky, the trees, the water and the earth. Walk outside, open your eyes, and prepare your heart for His beauty.

 

Behold

There are some words used in the bible that we just don’t hear very often in our modern world, and so they fail to carry their weight. “Behold” is one of those words that has begun to fascinate me, because Jesus used it to grab our attention and make a really important point.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with them , and they with Me.

I went to Webster's Dictionary for a little help with this word:

be·hold, a verb. To see or observe (a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one). To look with deep understanding; to take your breath away, to give your undivided attention to.

This definition rattles me a bit, because it’s so hard to do. To behold someone or something, and in particular, to “behold Jesus”, means stopping still, ceasing all other activities, and giving my full attention and searching gaze to Him. He stands knocking at the door of my heart and says, “I’m here, look at (behold) me!” He will not enter in uninvited, where there is no space or place for Him. But the instant we ask Him to come, He is there.

Think about what captivates you (what you are held captive by), because that is what you are most likely spending your time and energy “beholding.” Whether it’s a Netflix series, a Snapchat streak, a celebrity crush, or making social connections, if we fill our time, our hearts and minds with so many unremarkable things, we won’t have room for the Most Impressive One, who is calling out to us and saying, “I’m here, look at (behold) me!”

Jesus knows our hearts and intentions (better than we do!), and He responds to the cry of our hearts, not simply the words on our lips. He is not interested in being treated like a vending machine—a dispenser of good feelings or stuff we think we need. He wants to engage our hearts in a real relationship of trust and love; one that grows and flourishes.

The truth is, that at this very moment, Jesus stands at the door of your heart and He knocks—persistently and patiently, waiting for you to stop, to open your heart and to behold Him. What amazing, humble love this is, that the Creator of the Universe, waits for you. Let’s take time to listen for Him, to behold Him. Let’s not keep Him waiting any longer.

Learning to Be My Biggest Fan

Self-hate. Insecurity. Self-confidence. I’ve been dealing with all these things ever since I was in middle school. Most people have, and will deal with them at some point in their lives, or through the whole of life. I was thinking about these things because I have found a way to at least steady my insecurities. I’ve found a way- through the love of Christ, to conquer the doubts, fears, lies and bullets shot by the Evil One. I think God wants all of us to get to a point where we personally know a little bit of how MUCH God is in love with us. Sometimes it can be hard to hear, hard to understand, and hard to accept. However, God is always there and always waiting for us to invite him in.

My struggle with self-confidence, first and foremost has been a struggle. Everyone has insecurities, and I am no exception. I’ve always been concerned of others’ opinions and worry what they think of me as I’m sure many of you do. I haven’t experienced the depth of self-hate, but the little taste I’ve had has been enough. I don’t want anyone to feel like what I’ve felt before, and again, I know I haven’t gotten the worst of it! Right now however, I feel more confident than I have ever been in my short life. I am 15 years old, and I’m sure there will be many more times to come when the devil will try and block my view of the Lord, combined with my sin and my doubt as well. The key is to learn how to love ourselves. How do we do that?

I was looking back on a few months ago at some of my journal entries. They consisted of a real longing to feel loved and appreciated. I blamed it on the fact that I wanted to impress this guy I liked. The truth was, I didn’t love and appreciate myself. I realize that now. The devil was pushing me into a steady cycle of self-hate that I didn’t even notice was happening until I realized that:

1)    My prayer life had fallen apart.
2)    I was always nervous, self-conscious and empty.
3)    I was putting my identity in my daily appearance and the standards of the world.

Looking back, I realize how much I thought I knew what I was doing. I’ve listened to so many talks and heard from plenty of testimonies at camp and retreats, and in books that reminded me how much God loves me. Just because I knew so many “facts” and principles, didn’t mean I had everything together. I had to go through it, for myself.

So, like most things that anger you for a long time, you just get fed up and decide it has to change. I woke up and decided that however painful it would be to have to change, it couldn’t be more frustrating then the mirror of comparison staring me in the face. A few weeks later, I got myself a new mirror. This may seem counter intuitive, but I wanted to start completely over and look at myself from a new angle. I started sitting in front of the mirror every day. I would speak to myself as I imagined God or someone who loved and supported me to be talking. I chanted aloud of my beauty and I renounced many evil spirits by simply saying, “I renounce this spirit in the name of Jesus my Savior.” I started my prayer time again, although I was very reluctant because of my constant downfall and I thought it would be too much work. Even today, my prayer time isn’t as amazing as I want it to be, but, I know when I feel like not praying, that’s when I need to pray the most.

A few days later, I wrote a list of facts about myself-- truths of who I am. I say them and sometimes look in the mirror at myself, and sometimes I pray them silently. Either way, I ask God to say them with me. I’ve also realized through this process that I should be my biggest fan. People always say God, or your parents are your biggest fans, which can be true…but why can’t I be my biggest fan?! I need to have a love for myself. I know a few people who have a love for themselves, and it’s beautiful. I know I have a little of this love when I walk in the mirror or see myself in a window- and I smile at myself, talk to and encourage the girl I see. I dance sometimes too, realizing that joy is so much more fun than sadness. I hope that if I do this, people will see me and know that they’re just so amazing. They can know that God is what helps me to love the person I am and who I will become. They can know that no one can compare; they are so unique.

A lot of the things I didn’t like about myself consisted of physical things, as in, I didn’t like my nose, or I was rather flat chested, I didn’t like how I looked in this, or whatever. To push myself out of the self-hate, I decided to embrace myself, whoever that was. I didn’t like that I was so anxious, so I told myself I would stop worrying, and I pray still about that! I am making conscious decisions to conquer these insecurities that were actually prohibiting me from being myself, not making me better.

I’ve also come to the awareness that, to know myself, I need to know God first. That he is the closest I can be to anyone else, or to myself. To know the Jesus within people, is to really know them. I was sitting this weekend with a beautiful friend who is a lovely dancer and she walks with purpose. I admire that about her. She has gorgeous freckles and a pure and sincere heart. She told me, “I want to know the parts of people that are Jesus. Whether they know it or not, it’s important to them. Even if it’s a lack of Jesus, it helps me to know them better. I also know myself this way, by knowing God.”

Through this conversation a firework went off in my brain.That moment in your life (I think everyone has at some point) when you have the revelation that a Divine Being full of Love, has created me uniquely and for a purpose. Somehow, I have been given the privilege to know him. I can’t pass that up. I will never be separated from him, because he loves me. Because he KNOWS me. Even the days I don’t want to pray, I try and remember that God wants me. More than I will ever want him. I pray the prayer, “Lord, give me the want, to want you.” That can sometimes be a hard prayer to pray, but to know God is the greatest gift of all.

So, through this appreciation and love for who God made me to be, I have found much peace. There are still times every day, that a lie or doubt comes into my mind. Sometimes I let them get to me, sometimes I don’t. It’s a constant battle and a gruesome war. However, we have to come back to that peace because God has invited us to it! Because no opinion matters as much as the Lord’s.

Why not boast of the greatness that we are able to achieve? Why do we not wear our crosses with pride and show the world our joy? Just as it says in 1 Corinthians 1:31: “Therefore, as It is written, “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

So I encourage you to find your place in Christ. He wants you so badly, and wants to give you unending love. Enough for everyone else, and yourself.

What Time is It?—Summertime!

For students, every year summer cannot come soon enough. I can’t remember a time, whether I was in grade school, high school, or now college, when I did not motivate myself to survive all the last papers, projects, and tests with the consolation that as soon as I was done with them, summer would arrive and I would finally be free.

Throughout the school year I idealize summer. Just one aspect of this stems from my love of reading. I always try to write down or remember books that people recommend so that I can read them as soon as I have enough time, which means, you guessed it, in the summer. But it isn’t just reading. There are friends I plan on spending time with in the summer, movies I want to watch, so many things that I think I will have time for in the summer.

But a curious thing happens to me every year. When summer checks in, I tend to check out. I have already been on my summer break for four weeks this year, and looking back on those four weeks, it’s true I have spent time with friends, read books, and watched some of the movies I wanted to, but there has also been more than one day when I spent multiple hours laying in my bed, scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest, feeling as if there were things I could be doing, but unable to find the motivation. It is so easy to default to sitting around, just looking at my phone. I’m not trying to say that relaxation is a crime, but that there is a difference between intentional relaxation and a lack of motivation.

I think purpose and intentionality are the two things that I tend to try and live without in the summer. Because there are so few deadlines in the summer, if any, I can continue to push back anything I had planned on doing from today to “tomorrow”, launching myself into a never- ending spiral of procrastination and passivity. I mean really, I would think if I had something like 70 days to do a single homework assignment I could not possibly end up doing it the night before. And yet, my high school experience can testify otherwise. This passivity or lack of intention is obviously a problem.

            However, there is a two-word phrase in a passage from the bible which presents a way of living that is quite the opposite of this passivity.

            In Luke’s account of the Visitation, Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth immediately after discovering that she is to be the mother of Jesus. The encounter between these two cousins is profound, and they say many beautiful things, but there are two specific words which describe Mary’s actions which I find particularly moving: she goes to Elizabeth “with haste” (RSV Luke 1:39).

Mary does not dawdle. She is not frozen by indecision, she is not lukewarm, she is not passive. Mary acts “with haste”.

There is another reason I think that this is beautiful; Mary is doing something ordinary. The fact that she visited her cousin who was expecting a child is not strange or unusual, but it becomes an occasion of grace because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, as is the rest of her life. This is where Mary’s intentionality and purpose came from.

Like Mary at the Visitation, we also can live in the power of the Holy Spirit and act with that same intentionality. Throughout our daily lives, whenever we play with our younger siblings or sweep the floor for our family after dinner, it does not have to be passive, but rather can be elevated to an occasion of grace. Pope John Paul II once said when speaking about the Visitation, “In this act of human solidarity, Mary demonstrated that authentic charity which grows within us when Christ is present”.

If we truly choose to live imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ, it might not change how our lives look on the outside, but it will certainly elevate our ordinary, daily actions into occasions of authentic grace and love, and give us the motivation to decide to act based on love, rather than based on how we feel or what would make us the most comfortable.

And so, as we all continue through our summer, perhaps today, instead of wondering how we should spend our time, we should pray to the Holy Spirit for His guidance, and when we see what should be done today, rather than dragging our feet, we can by His grace, act “with haste”.

Rich in Love

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to Mexico City. Both of my parents and my two older siblings had gone and I expected it to be a life changing experience. But I couldn’t anticipate the way that my heart would be broken out of love for each person I encountered and how these encounters would change my outlook on my life.

We spent three days in the garbage dump, where thousands of people live and work every day, and from the first moment when I gave Giovanni a “caballito” (a piggy back ride), I experienced total freedom to love and be loved. These people have none of the things we often value as most important—money, homes, possessions, important careers, or status. Yet I have never experienced such rich and radical love as they welcomed each of us into their lives with loving, open arms. I never once worried about what I looked like or if I was saying the right thing, which I often worry about at home. These people just loved me, and despite their horrific conditions, they exuded pure joy and thoughtfulness. The way that these people love broke my heart, because although they have nothing, they love with a generosity and lavishness, while I who have much more, often love less.

On the last day in the dump, when we were saying goodbye, my friend Adriana looked and me and told me that I would always have a home in Mexico and that she was like my mother and her family—Valente, Daphne, and Ximena were all a part of my family there. I cried like a baby when she told me that she can’t wait until the day we are together in Heaven. This radical ability to welcome me into their lives was clearly Christ loving me through them.

I have become much more grateful for all that the Lord has given to me in this life. I now look at all the blessings that I have, and while it can be easy to sometimes feel guilty, I just think of the gratefulness of the people in the dump for the little that they have, and I am encouraged to thank God for all that I’ve been given.

Many people came to the medical clinic with serious physical ailments, and oftentimes we couldn’t do much to help them. But I learned that Christ wants to heal and he does heal if we have the faith and the courage to ask. Maria Guadalupe, an elderly woman, was suffering serious pain in her foot from falling in the garbage, and we prayed with her for healing. I saw her twenty minutes later and she showed me that her foot was totally better! But the most beautiful thing was that she didn’t stop praising God! She was so thankful for this miracle. These people have such great faith that God will heal them and I know that he wants to do the same in our lives each day!

As we prepared to return home, our team discussed the very real possibility that the Mexico trip had been an intensive preparation for our real “mission” which was at home—in learning how to love the “poor” in our midst daily. I’m learning that it’s about loving people when they’re annoying; it’s treating every person that I encounter with respect and kindness; it’s being generous with all that I have. This is what makes my daily life the real mission field. Returning to my “normal” life was hard, but I’m also excited about the challenge ahead of me. When I am struggling to love, I can think of the face of Christ in people in the dump like Adriana, Valente, Blanca, Brenda, Carlita, and many more, and I know that Christ wants me to love every person I encounter in the same way that these people loved me—with a generous, open heart, rich in love.

The Better Portion

There are many ways to seek God’s face: personal prayer time, nature walks, praise and worship music, reading the bible and spiritual books, as well as going to daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and praying the Rosary. When I think about these devotional practices, I want to do #AllofIt. The next thing I know, I am trying to incorporate every item on that list into my daily life and what happens?

I burn out. And then I do #NoneOfIt.

Is that bad to say? How can this girl burn out on Jesus?

The truth is, I’m not burning out on Jesus. I’m burning out on trying to do all these good things, and I am missing the point! The point is to not just DO things (even if they are good), but to learn how to BE with Him.

At times, I can feel that it’s not enough if I only focus on one of these actions.

It’s totally enough, especially if I try my best to be fully engaged in my time with Jesus.

Why is it so hard to do less? Why do we think that more is always better?

It is tempting to put activity before intimacy. But I’m here to remind you, and I need the reminder myself, that intimacy with God is the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end) of my “to do” list.

This is what Jesus said to a woman named Martha who was running around, trying to do everything for Him: One thing is needed; she (Mary) has chosen the better portion and it will not be taken from her [paraphrased, Luke 10:42].

So how can we refocus and reconnect to God when we are feeling distant or have burnt ourselves out with activities?

I invite you to choose ONE item from this list and put it into practice.

1.     Go for a nature walk. Allow yourself to stop periodically and thoughtfully consider the way the wind gently caresses the leaves on a tree, pick a bouquet of wildflowers, or sit and gaze at a stream or lake. Invite the Lord to be with you as you walk, and be content knowing He is with you, even if He is silent.

2.     Dive into a daily devotional such as Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, God Calling by A.J. Russell or Blessed Is She and prayerfully reflect on it. Reread the Scripture verses it references, asking God to draw you closer to Him through His Word.

3.     Find a local Adoration chapel and spend some time with Jesus in quiet. Bring a journal or a book or don’t. The point is to do less, so if bringing it feels like work, leave it at home. If you use it to help facilitate prayer with God, then bring it!

4.     Attend daily Mass. Arrive early and spend five minutes centering yourself, leaving whatever came before this moment behind you. Take your heart and mind off automatic pilot and allow yourself to be fully present and to enter into the celebration of the Mass.

5.     Listen to a good Praise & Worship playlist. Sing along, these words can be your prayer. If you are musical, play an instrument or sing. Find my Praise & Worship Spotify playlist here or create your own. 

These are five ways that truthfully always bring me back to the Lord when my focus has been on other things. Less is always more, at least in my life. He is here, in the present moment. He is here, in my heart, when I allow myself to just be.

Remember that all of these activities are put in place to bring us closer to Jesus – it is the relationship that is the most important. Intimacy over activity. How can you be a friend to Jesus today? And how can you let Him be a friend to you?