I decided it would be fun to show you some of my September through the lens of my Instagram feed. (Feel free to follow me!) It isn’t a detailed commentary on my month, but it gives a fun (at least to me) view of what I’ve been doing this month.
This morning, I was asked to give the school paper one piece of advice for the seniors as they graduate. (In 14 days, when did that happen?) I made myself a list and asked for some recommendations on facebook. Here’s my list with commentary:
- We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? (Doctor Who) I love this quotation. It’s from the fifth series finale, and it serves as a reminder to me (an English teacher, remember) that our legacy on this earth is our stories and the stories that are told about us. We should strive to leave good stories behind us.
- Life is pain, ladies and gentlemen. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. (The Princess Bride) Life is hard. Life is incredibly hard, and you should never believe anyone who tells you otherwise. But it is also incredibly worthwhile.
- Avoid the university bookstore. Amazon is your friend. This is pretty easy to understand.
- “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” (JM Barrie) We don’t know everything that is going on in someone else’s life and we need to be compassionate towards others.
- See the good in everyone. No one is perfect. Again, we don’t know what’s happening in others’ lives. We need to be compassionate.
- Mumford and Sons, they were right. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. Choose wisely. Your love ends up guiding your life. The people and things that you love become parts of your soul.
- Do your best. Never let anyone call you mediocre. I feel like this one is pretty self-explanatory.
- Be brave with your life. Don’t let anyone tell you who or what you can be. Do not be afraid. Do what you want to do with your life. Don’t let other people hold you back.
- The time to make up your mind about people is never. (The Philadelphia Story) Spend your life learning about the human race.
- You’ll never be a first-rate human being until you’ve learned to have some regard for human frailty. (The Philadelphia Story) We need to learn to see the good in others and to respect the fact that we are fallen humans. We need to show compassion and mercy.
- No man is a failure who has friends. (It’s a Wonderful Life) Friendship, community-those are two of the greatest accomplishments in the world. If you have friends, true friends, you cannot be a failure.
- Learn to love without condition. Talk without bad intention. Give without any reason. And most of all, care for people without any expectation. Treat others the way that you want to be treated. Don’t expect people to be something for you or do something. Just love them as they are. It’s not easy, but hopefully, it will be good.
- Do all things with love. Simply put, love always.
First of all, let me say that I do want to get married and have a family. It is something that I desire and something that I believe that God is calling me to.
However, I believe that there is a purpose to this single season in my life. While I would love to be married and have a family, that isn’t where my life is right now. And by and large, I am fine with that. Why is that?
First of all, I am so much more than my relationship status. I am a heck of a lot of things and most of them don’t depend upon whether or not some dude has asked me out. I have managed to grow in various area of my life over the past few years specifically because I’m single. I’ve been able to use this time in my life to grow and to become more of the person that I am.
Secondarily, I believe that God has a plan for my life. I believe that he has put me where I am for a reason. I may not always understand that, but I try to accept that. I have accepted the fact that it is God’s will for me to be single in this season of my life. I don’t know how long he intends for this season to last, but while I’m here, I might as well make good use of this time.
Thirdly, I realize that I’m doing something with my life right now. I don’t need to wait until some guy puts a ring on my finger to have a purpose in my life. I don’t need to be a wife or a mother to have a purpose. I have a purpose to my life these days-and it’s a pretty awesome purpose.
As I have said before, I have my dream job. At the age of twenty-four, I got my first full-time teaching job. As a teacher, I have the opportunity to work with young people and to hopefully help shape them in a positive ways. I can introduce them to literature, to culture, and to ideas that they may have never considered before. I get to talk to them, to work with them, and to pray for them. To be honest, I think that I am able to be more available to them because I am single. I have more time and energy for my job because I’m unattached.
Now, my students not my children-although we’ve talked before about how I have been known to call my students my kiddos. But these children have become a part of my life. They have shaped me in little ways. Some of them have allowed me to see a window into their lives. Some of them have adopted me as a sort of older sister. I get to be involved in shaping their lives. There is nothing that I love more than those random moments when I get to give them my (usually solicited) opinion on important issues that may not be directly related what we’re covering in class. At the very least, I get to stick a new idea in their brains, give them something to chew over. I like that. I like making them think.
All in all, I’m happy with my life. I have a great job with great coworkers, wonderful friends, an amazing God, and an amazing yarn collection. I’m happy. I have all of the things that I need to survive and the ability to obtain most things that I want. To me, that’s a good life. It’s a happy life.
I don’t need a husband to make me feel validated. I don’t need to have rings on my finger to make me happy-although they might make the boys I teach stop trying to flirt with me. But I don’t need a husband. I have a life that fulfills me. And I believe that God has a plan for me. I firmly believe that I am single at this point in my life because it is His will.
Even in this life, I am trying to prepare for marriage. I pray for the man that I may someday marry. I ask God to bless him and to help him to become a strong, holy man of God. I pray that God will help me to become a strong, holy woman of God. I spend time with my friends and family because I know that I need a well-rounded life.
But for now, I’m single. And I am pretty darn content with that life. After all, I’m spending my Friday night grading homework, and I’m not sure how a boyfriend/husband would like that too much.
This a sequel to this post from November. As with that post,
The following is inspired by my encounters with adults and with teenagers over the past twenty-four years. It is also inspired by my faith and my love of literature. It is intended to be both humorous and edifying.
And, of course, only God knows if I will ever have sons to read this letter. But for now, it’s for the blog, which at times is like a child to me. And perhaps through this blog post I can help others.
To my boys,
As I have said many times, reading is the one of the most important things in the world. Christ is the most important, but reading comes within the top five alongside manners and proper hygeine. Reading has the ability to change your life and the world. It has the ability to introduce you to new peoples and places. It allows you to challenge yourself and question yourself. It allows you to grow and to be.
Reading can make you a better person. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a better person if you just pick up a book and read it. You have to READ it. You have to understand it. You have to allow the book to soak into your mind and then your soul. You have to allow the book to become a part of you.
It’s not easy, but it’s such a good idea. It’s so good for you. And because it’s good for you, it’s good for the people around you-your friends, your family, and so on. You read. You allow the book to make you a better person. And thereby, you can make the world a better place. It might sound idealistic, but bit by bit, it works.
You can learn so much from books. Look at the journey of Huckleberry Finn to manhood. Look at the leadership of Henry V, the courage of Sidney Carton, the honor of Aragorn, the humility of Frodo, the hope of Samwise Gamgee, the love of Alexandre Manet, the joy of Merry (so aptly named) and of Pippin, the chivalry and humility of King Arthur, the self-sacrificial nature of Harry Potter, the love and dedication of Benedick, etc. Look at these men. They reflect characteristics that I want you to have. I want you to become men of honor and humility, of hope and joy, of love and dedication. I want you to be Christ-like men. And I believe that from Henry V to Harry Potter, we see time and again the message that Christ gave to his apostles in his last days before his crucifixion: Greater love has no man than this: to be willing to die so that another might live. (John 15:13).
Greater love has no man…be men of that love. Live that love, that passion. And you can learn it from Shakespeare, from Dickens, from Rowling. Pick up a book and read. Look at High King Peter the Magnificent. Why was he magnificent? Because he put others before himself, because he loved his country more than himself…because he was willing to serve Aslan in good times and in bad-this is what I want for you.
I want you to fight for what you believe in. Be an Aragorn. Be a Henry. Be a Gilbert Blythe. Fight for what you believe in. Fight for what you love. Fight. Don’t be afraid of greatness. Be great. Be men of greatness.
How can you learn to be great? Read about greatness. Read biographies and histories. Look at the lives of generals and missionaries. Learn about their lives. What made them good? What did they love? Why did they do what they did? What motivated them?
Look at their lives and learn from them. Be like Neville Longbottom. Be like Eustace Scrubb. Be like Henry V. Put your faith in something that matters. See beyond the moment and look for the greater picture. Look for the eternal. Live as a Narnian even if there is no Narnia.
Be men of honor. Be like Westley. Know that not even death can stop true love. And know that love is not just a romantic sentiment, but rather that it is an action, an action of nobility, honor, and courage. Love requires much of a man. Be men who can love.
And if you look at literature-both fiction and nonfiction, you will find countless men who know how to love-men who are willing to die for love, men who are willing to give up comfortable lives for love. Do not be afraid to be like them. Look at their motivation and courage. Be like them. Follow in their footsteps. Learn from their lives.
More than anything, I want you to be men of God. I want you to be the good men of whom Henry V spoke on St. Crispian’s Day. I want you to be not only hearers of the Word but doers of it. And I believe that for you to become strong, holy men of God, you must read. First, read the Bible. Meet Moses and Aaron, Samuel and David, Peter and John. Meet Christ. Then read literature. Read about the heroes of old. Read about noble knights who saved damsels in distress. Read about modern heroes. Learn from their deeds-both good and bad. Learn to recognize the difference between good and evil, light and darkness. And then, put those lessons into action.
So, become strong, holy men of God. It is my greatest hope and prayer for you. Challenge yourselves. Never let yourselves off easily.
Always remember that I challenge you out of love. And more importantly, remember that Christ challenges you out of love.
Be great. Be noble. Be holy. And please read.
With all of my love,
“Every man praying or prophesying with anything down over his head dishonors his head, but every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” (I Cor. 11: 4-6)
It was about this time of year four years ago that I made the choice to wear a chapel veil, or mantilla, during the Liturgy. In large part, I was motivated by the verse I quoted at the top of the post. I was also motivated in a very personal way by reverence for the Eucharist and for the Liturgy as a whole. As I have said to many people over the past four years, if the Eucharist (and thereby the Liturgy) are what we say that they are, then we ought to approach it with fear and trembling. It’s the Eucharist. It’s Jesus Christ, physically present to us. To me, that is something that requires incredible reverence and respect. And for me, that reverence and respect meant that I should cover my head during Liturgy.
However, I believe that this is my choice. Yes, it is guided by Scripture and Church teaching/tradition. But ultimately, this was my choice. I believe that I have been called to do this as a reflection of my own relationship with Christ. While it is something that I do in public, it is a personal decision, a personal call, and a reflection of a personal relationship. I came to this decision on my own through prayer and reflection, and as such, I do not wish to impose this on others. I don’t know if I’ll expect my (maybe possibly someday) daughters to veil-and I have been asked that before.
But as I said, it is my choice. I veil because I made that decision for myself. And I don’t want to force that decision on others. I don’t wish to make other people make the same choice that I have unless it is what they feel that they have been called to.
I say this because I have been asked by various people about my choice to veil. Most people accept it as my choice and move on. However, several months ago, a man said to me that he liked that I veiled and he wished that he could get his wife to do the same.
And that comment is what led to the writing of this blog post. He wished he could “get” his wife to do the same. Now, I won’t get into the gender roles and such involved in that statement because that’s not my point here.
Right or wrong, veiling has fallen out of common practice in the Catholic Church over the past fifty years. Now, I have several friends who veil, and I both respect and admire them for that choice. However, it is their choice. While St. Paul would like all Catholic women to veil, I believe that veiling is a personal decision. I think it is something that a women needs to explore at an individual level rather than having it imposed on her. (Goodness, I sound like a product of the early twenty-first century, don’t I?) I see veiling as a call. I see it as something that reflects, as I said earlier, my relationship with Christ. Therefore, it is something that I had to discern on my own, and I believe that every woman needs to go through her own discernment process. Does the veil fit her relationship with the Lord? If she believes that it doesn’t, then it is not for her.
Last year, I wrote my “End of Lent” reflection on the topic of why I am Catholic. I focused on how the events of Holy Week have inspired, confirmed, and upheld my faith in Christ.
This year, I’m focusing it on a “trouble area” I’ve noticed in all of my Lenten blogging. I keep talking about what I can DO. What I can do.
And sitting here on Palm Sunday, I have come to a realization that this isn’t about me. It never was. It isn’t about what actions I can take. It isn’t about getting up earlier or reading a better book or going to church more. Ultimately, while all of that is good, that is not the point here. Ultimately, the point lies in me taking up my cross and denying myself.
Ultimately, all of my Lenten devotions-and really all of my life-should be about me surrendering myself into the hands of the Master. As I was out for a walk this evening and reflecting on my Lenten experiences for 2013, a clue by four came to me. I was thinking about all of the things that I didn’t do and all of the changes that I didn’t make. And then, I was reminded of something. Only one thing is needed.
““Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42)
Only one thing is needed. Put your life in God’s hands and stop trying to run your own life. Give God everything. That’s all that I need to do. Everything else will come from that-the prayer, the change in attitude. It will all come if I put my life, myself into God’s hands every day, and live my life for him.
Now, that’s an easy thing to say, but it’s not an easy thing to live. I’m going to need loads and loads of grace to do it. And I’m going to need humility to do it.
But that’s all that I need to do. All I need to do is swallow my pride, look at the Cross, and say, “I need you.” God will do the rest.
Tomorrow is somehow the fourth Sunday of Lent. I’m relatively certain that Lent actually only started yesterday, but that doesn’t make sense because yesterday was a Friday and Lent doesn’t start on a Friday for anyone.
So tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Lent. And I still haven’t managed to stop swearing.
I’m trying to pray more. I’m reading The Imitation of Christ. (It’s great.) I’m pretty much not buying coffee on my way home from work-except this one time when it was either drink coffee or fall asleep at the wheel and I was relatively certain that God would understand. Since I haven’t been struck by lightning yet, I think we’re okay.
But I still swear. It’s not constant. But it’s still happening. It’s mostly in my head, but that doesn’t actually make it any better. It’s still wrong. It’s still something that I shouldn’t be doing. And I need grace to stop doing it. I need grace to find a different reaction in those moments when the f-word is dancing through my thoughts.
I have realized that swearing is my reaction to stress or frustration. And now I need a counter-reaction to those moments. I need to do something other than swear. Several years ago, I gave up swearing while a friend’s friend’s father was deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, and every time that I wanted to swear, I prayed for this man and his family instead. I need something like that to do again.
And I need grace.
Right now, I’m thinking that I ought to pray for my students when I want to swear. And I need to ask for grace.
But I still feel like I’m bad at Lent. I should be becoming better. And I don’t feel like I’m changing. I need to go to Confession and I keep “forgetting.” (The forgetting is actually real. I would go to Confession on Saturday afternoons and I either find myself overbooked or overwhelmed by work. But there’s a communal penance service in nine days that I’m going to attend. This is a Plan.) Regardless, I feel like I need to be doing more and becoming more so that I’m better prepared for Easter.
And I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to become more or how to be more or how to do more. I keep asking God to take my heart from me and to give me His heart. I ask him to be my peace, my patience, and my joy. But I can’t get over the swearing thing. My parents gave up meat for Lent; I didn’t because I don’t feel that it means anything substantial to me. I don’t feel like it reflects real change to me right now. I want to stop wearing. But while the Spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.
And I somehow just keep feeling like I’m doing Lent wrong.