The Promise to Pray

Over the summer, I’ve been dealing with a tough situation. I’m looking for a new job, and the search has been difficult at times. I’ve talked with various friends and family members about this over the summer, and I’m grateful for the enormous amount of support that I have received.

I recently realized that the people who I view as most supportive are the ones who promise to pray for me. I’ve asked several friends to pray for me, and they always respond in the affirmative. One of my coworkers ends every serious (more than a quick “hi, how are you?”) conversation we have these days with “I’m praying for you.” It’s a simple four-word sentence, but it means the world to me. Someone is praying for me. Actually, a lot of someones are praying for me.

That means the world to me. These people are showing me their love and support by promising to ask the Lord to help me. We don’t know how this situation will end. We don’t know exactly what the Lord’s will is in this moment. But we’re surrendering it to him. We’re asking him to bless it. We’re trusting him with it. And praying for someone else’s needs and wants-that’s an act of love.

These people can’t find me a new job. They can’t change the circumstances of my life. But they can love and support me in a difficult time in my life. And that is what prayer is. Prayer is an act of love. Praying for another person is an act of love. In our prayers, we are submitting ourselves to the Divine Will. We are humbling ourselves before the Lord and placing our trust in him.

We don’t know exactly how the Lord will answer our prayers, but we believe that he will answer them. And so we pray. We pray for our own wants and needs. We pray for others. And the promise to pray is an act of faith in God and of love both for God and for the other. After all, prayer is one of the most powerful things in the world.

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”

-Mark 11:24

Please keep praying. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord.

Perspective

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

-G.K. Chesterton

I’ve talked before about how the past year and a half of my life has been an (at times unwelcome) adventure. It hasn’t always gone the way that I wanted it to, but that’s also not necessarily a bad thing.

However, when things don’t go my way or I’m disappointed/unhappy with things, I have a tendency to get upset. There may at times be slight temper tantrums. I may become sad. I have a very intense personality, and I feel things (both positive and negative) strongly. At these times, I need to be put back into perspective.

This past week, I received some news that was actually good news. It was unexpected, but it was good news. However, because it didn’t line up with my expectations, I had a bit of a meltdown. I was facing cognitive dissonance, and I felt it strongly. I didn’t react well.

However, I (in an act of self-preservation) sought out a coworker who has a much less intense personality than my own and can look at the world through a more level-headed lens. I explained the situation, and it quickly became apparent to both of us (him more than me) that what had happened was actually a good thing. It wasn’t what I had expected or planned, but it was (and still is) a good thing. And this man began using that word “adventure.”

His use of that word helped me eventually come to see the beauty of what had happened, but it also helped me to realize that I far too often look at things as inconvenient or difficult because they aren’t what I wanted or planned. If things don’t go my way, I look at them as difficult or problematic. But as my beloved Chesterton says, these things are adventures if they are looked at properly. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I need to daily choose to look at the world through a positive lens. I need to daily choose joy and to see the world in a joyful manner. I need to remember that God loves me and wants to give me good things. God actively desires nothing but good for his children. As Christ himself says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11) But I have to change my perspective. I have to choose to see the good. I have to choose to see the adventures and not the inconveniences. I need to make that choice on a daily basis to look for how God is working in my life and not automatically assume that whatever goes against my plans must be bad.

I need to change my perspective. And that will be a choice that I’ll have to make. It will indubitably be a challenge for me at first, and I’ll definitely need reminders to look for the good in every situation. I’ll need to pray about this, and I’ll need prayers from others. But I think that it is a necessary change in my life and in my perspective.

Kreacher’s Love

I just finished rereading the Harry Potter series for the third or fourth time. I love those books, and I learn something different from them each time. I’m nearing the end of the seventh book, and in this reading of that particular book, I’ve put more attention towards the House Elf, Kreacher, than I have in previous readings.

 Kreacher from harrypotter.wikia.com

When we meet him, Kreacher is a House Elf belonging to the Black family. The Blacks are an ancient wizarding family who are very strong believers in the importance of pureblood supremacy. Nearly every member of this family hates all wizards who do not share their “pure blood” or their love of that purity. They also hate Muggles. This is the world in which Kreacher has lived, and it is all that he knows. He is loyal to this family and their beliefs. He shares their beliefs and opinions.

By some twist of fate, the Black house becomes the base for the Order of the Phoenix, an organization that works against everything that the Black family believes. He is not kind to the members of the Order. He obeys Sirius Black (his “owner” and the only “good” Black) because he must according to the magic that governs his race/species. But he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to do this and it is offensive to his beliefs.

When Harry Potter, Sirius Black’s godson, inherits Kreacher after Sirius passes away, Kreacher makes it clear that he disdains his new master. And Harry doesn’t seem too pleased to own Kreacher either. He won’t free Kreacher because he and the other members of the Order fear that the House Elf would (out of a sense of loyalty to the Black family) tell the Death Eaters what he has learned from living in the Order’s headquarters. But Harry doesn’t like Kreacher, and he doesn’t want to deal with him.

However, in the seventh book, something changes. Harry, Ron, and Hermione find themselves in the Black home (12 Grimmauld Place) again for a short time. During this stay, Harry gives Kreacher a locket that had belonged to the Black family. suddenly, Kreacher’s demeanor towards Harry changes. He is kind to Harry and his friends. He is even kind to Hermione who he had always treated rudely previously. Hermione had once observed that Kreacher is kind to those who are kind to him, and that is proved to be true.

But when 12 Grimmauld Place ceases to be a safe place for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Kreacher does not abandon them or their cause. Instead of fleeing to the Death Eaters, he somehow makes his way to Hogwarts, and we next meet him he is leading the House Elves of Hogwarts into battle against Lord Voldemort.

I think that we can learn a lesson about love from Kreacher. Real love isn’t just there when it’s convenient the way that Miss Cissy (Narcissa Black-Malfoy) or Miss Bella (Bellatrix Black-Lestrange) are for Kreacher. Love doesn’t mock us or treat us cruelly like Sirius Black does to Kreacher.

No, love is faithful. Love is persistent. Love keeps coming after us even when we reject it-perhaps because we don’t recognize it as such. Much like Hermione’s treatment of Kreacher, love never stops seeking the ultimate good of the other. Hermione doesn’t necessarily understand Kreacher, but to be honest, he’s a complex little dude.

Eventually, Harry starts to treat Kreacher with kindness, and that kindness is rewarded. Kreacher repays kindness with kindness. And he and Harry start to build some semblance of a relationship. This relationship never fully develops into its full potential largely because of the war.

Regardless, Kreacher shows me an important lesson about love-namely, love (either romantic or platonic) may not always look like we expect, but real love will suffer long. Real love is patient. Real love seeks the highest good of the other. Real love isn’t just there when it is convenient or when it wants something. Real love isn’t just nice to the other when it wants something. No, real love suffers with you and seeks your highest good.

That isn’t necessarily perfectly played out in Kreacher, but his story-and especially the way that Hermione persists in kindness towards him regardless of how he treats her-gives us an unusual but beautiful reminder of what real love is.

Lord, You know all things.

On this, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, most Catholics are inclined to think of Matthew 16 in which Christ changes Simon’s name to Peter and declares him to be the rock upon which He will build His Church. This is important, but it’s not my favorite verse associated with Peter.
That is, rather, John 21 in which Simon Peter who thrice denied the Lord is now asked three times “Do you love Me?” Christ tells Peter to “Tend My lambs,” “Shepherd My lambs,” and “Tend My sheep.” This is commonly called the restoration of Peter.
Then the Lord tells Peter that “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go…Follow Me.” St. John tells us that Christ said this to indicate the death by which Peter would die, and Tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down.

To me, Peter is a great example of living for Christ. He is not perfect. He falls. He denies knowing Christ on the eve of the Passion. But when mercy is offered, he eagerly accepts it. Yes, he is frustrated by the repetition of the question “Do you love me?” He is human. He gets frustrated. He does things that aren’t the wisest. Honestly, sometimes, Peter is a loudmouth idiot. But he is also an amazing example of repentance, of humility, and of faith. He loves God. He believes in God. After Pentecost, he is filled with an incredible passion for the Lord and for preaching.

And that should be an example to us. St. Peter loved God ardently and wanted to share Christ with others. We should imitate that. St. Peter accepted love and mercy when they were offered to him. We should do likewise. St. Peter followed Christ regardless of the cost. We should do likewise.

St. Peter, pray for us!

I Belong to…

In a recent interview, Iggy Azalea said that she belongs to no one, a strong feminist statement. And it’s a statement that I really understand and even agree with, something about it started bothering me. It took me a while to figure out what bothers me. It’s not because I think that people should belong to one another-literally or figuratively. I don’t like the idea that a woman becomes a man’s property when they’re in a relationship or at any other time.

Rather, what bothered me was something that probably wasn’t anywhere near Iggy Azalea’s mind when she said that. See, I have no problem with saying at a purely human level that I belong to no one. I don’t belong to any human beings. Neither does Iggy Azalea. No human being should own another human being. However, in a spiritual sense, I do belong to someone. I belong to God.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

-I Corinthians 6:19-20

This basic concept presented by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians carries so much meaning. “You have been bought with a price,” Paul says. The price he references is Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The New Testament is filled with the idea that we as Christians belong to Christ.

This is an incredibly important part of my life and of my identity. At some point in the past year, I was challenged to rethink my identity. I had hit a point in my life where being a teacher was pretty much my sole definition of who and what I was. Now, being a teacher isn’t a bad thing. I really believe that I’m called to be a teacher. But I’m more than that. I’m a daughter of God. I’m the daughter of my earthly parents. I’m my brother’s sister. I’m a friend. I’m more than just my profession. And somehow, I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that first and foremost I belong to God. I had forgotten the most important part of my identity.

I mentioned in a previous post that about a year or so ago I started praying on a daily basis “Be real to me, Lord Jesus.” In that prayer, I started to find myself again.

Last summer, I started talking to a few friends about wanting to DO something to help support and encourage the ideals of strong, holy Christian women. I wanted (and still want) to work to promote the integration of faith and femininity. I want to show the world that there is nothing wrong with me being an almost twenty-seven-year-old woman who is single, who is Byzantine Catholic, who wears skinny jeans, who is actively pursuing her career, and who wears a chapel veil.

What does it mean to be a Catholic woman? It means living a life that is given wholly to the Gospel, given wholly to the Lord of the Universe.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

-Ephesians 4:1-6

I have been called to follow Christ, and I have chosen to accept that call. I have chosen to live my life not for myself but for the Lord. I have chosen to belong to the Lord. Admittedly, that is my choice. I have chosen to give my life over to a higher power and to trust Him. Every day, I choose to live not for myself but for God. It isn’t easy. I can’t do it on my own. But I ask the Lord to help me and strengthen me. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. But I have been called to follow the Lord, and I want to live a holy life, a Godly life.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

-Galatians 2:20

Iggy Azalea is right that she doesn’t belong to anyone. She doesn’t belong to her father or her mother or her fiancé or any other person. As I said previously, I belong to no human beings. But my life belongs to the Lord. I belong to the Lord.

To whom do you belong?

The Kitchen Table Garden

I’m not going to say that it’s Haley Stewart’s fault because it’s not. I know that Haley and her family grow veggies, and I think that they grow a few kinds of fruit as well. But that’s not my big takeaway from the Stewarts’ urban homesteading because mostly I know that they have chickens. I know this because chickens are cute. I can’t currently have chickens because I’m about to move into an apartment and that’s not a good place for chickens. However, chickens are awesome, and someday, I want to own some. All that Haley contributed to this was giving me a positive association for the phrase “urban homesteading.”

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This all started with a mint plant at the grocery store. They had a mint plant that cost $4. I like mint. I like mojitos. Buying fresh mint usually runs me about $4 a pop, so I grabbed the plant. I took it home and started working with it. My dining room window is enormous and faces east, so I put the plant on the dining room table. It liked that. I liked the mint. IMG_2341

The next week, I went back to the store and they had various potted herbs on sale for $2. I wanted to buy rosemary, parsley, and basil, but I could only find healthy rosemary. I bought two plants. I took them and put them in the dining room window sill. One of them likes that window sill; the other prefers sitting in the backyard. Weirdo.

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I went to Trader Joe’s seeking basil and parsley plants. They didn’t have any that day, but they had little herb gardens with oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I bought one, and I put it in the dining room window sill. It likes its life there.

I still wanted basil and parsley plants, so I went to a local farm market that I knew carried plants. The goal was one basil plant and one parsley plant. My roommate told me when I came home that the funniest part of this story that I actually believed at any point in my life that I could only buy two plants.

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I now own two pots that each contain four basil plants, two parsley plants, a chard plant, a kale plant, and a tomato plant. The parsley went in the kitchen window, which they love. Everything else went on the kitchen table. I’m not sure that the kale and the chard love it there. It might be too sunny for them there, so they might move to the front porch soon. We’ll see. But the basil loves it there. Loves it. The tomato plant is also happy there, and it might get a friend soon. We’ll see.

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Now, my roommate and I are trying to grow garlic, onions, and celery from scraps. The garlic is thriving, the celery is growing slowly, and the onions…well, we may have to try that experiment again. IMG_2348

Why am I growing all of these plants? There are a few reasons. One of them is that I grew up in a family of gardeners. My mom, her siblings, my grandparents…they garden. I’ve grown up around their produce, and it just feels normal and natural to me. It’s also less expensive than going out and buying new tomatoes or new basil or new whatever every week. It’s also about being a responsible steward of the earth and about knowing where my food comes from. (The grocery store is not always a good enough answer for me.) IMG_2350 IMG_2352 IMG_2354 IMG_2355 IMG_2356 IMG_2357 IMG_2358

I’m also doing this to build a habit in myself. This is something that I want to continue beyond this summer. I’d like to continue to add plants (lettuce and cilantro are coming to mind) to this as time goes on. I’d like to add more vegetables-peas, carrots, beans, cucumbers. If I ever own a house, I might want to throw in some berries or maybe a fruit tree. I want to create a habit or tradition for myself. I want to create something that I can continue if I ever have children.

What I Look for in a Cup of Tea

Obviously, I like tea a little bit. Over the course of my life, I’ve consumed a few cups of it, and I know a little bit about the subject. I drink tea at various times of the day and for various reasons, so I thought I’d throw a little of my tea drinking knowledge into the vast void in the hopes that it might help or interest others.

Flavor

The most important thing for me in choosing a cup of tea is the flavor of what I’m about to consume. I prefer to be able to smell what I’m about to drink rather than just buy something online and hope that it will meet my expectations. This is why I really like visiting my local tea shop. I can smell the teas before I buy them and talk to the people who work there about the flavors. They also occasionally have samples out to taste, and I really like that. I’ve bought some teas that I otherwise wouldn’t have because I was able to taste them.

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I will buy from Adagio Teas at times. However, I am willing to buy from them because of their detailed product descriptions. And even then, I feel a little nervous about what I’m going to get. It’s a bit of a leap of faith because I may not be getting something that I’m actually going to love.

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So what do I like? I like strong flavors and I tend to enjoy fruity flavors-especially peach. I have a variety of different peach flavored teas-black teas, white teas, iced teas…I like peach teas. Tazo Tea makes a peach green tea that I really like. I like Swirl Tea’s cold brew peach green tea. I have a tea called Cinderella Tea (a gift that a friend bought from Margaret’s Fine Teas in Pittsburgh) which is a black tea that has dried apple, pineapple, orange, elderberries and mango along with blackberry leaves and other floral/plant leaves. I find these flavors to be more complex and intriguing.

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I also like flavors such as mint, jasmine, and cinnamon. I tend to find these kinds of teas to be comforting flavors. They’re good standbys when I need something calming and comforting. I have a mint green tea from my local tea store that I just love. (Apparently, it’s very popular with their customers.) I tend to drink that tea when I’m studying or stressed. I’ll drink that old standby of green tea with jasmine when it’s offered, but I won’t go buy it on my own. I have a few black and green teas that have cinnamon in them, and I always like those. To me, these are safe, comfortable flavors.

Experience

As I mentioned above, there are some teas that I find to be fun and others that I find to be safe and comfortable. When I choose a tea, there are two experiences that are very important for me to consider. The first one is my own personal situation at the moment. I don’t want to be exploring new or complex flavors of tea while I’m writing a paper or grading an assignment. For me, those moments are the perfect times for subtle flavor like a peach tea or a mint tea. They’re calming flavors, and they don’t require much of my attention.

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On the other hand, something like the Cinderella tea I mentioned previously is going to come out for a movie night or when I’m reading for pleasure. Then I have more mental energy for enjoying the flavors that I’m drinking.

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I really like the Mr. Darcy tea from Adagio teas. The second time that I made a cup I informed my housemate that it smelled like I thought that Mr. Darcy would smell. Then I made her smell it; she agreed. That’s not something that I’m likely to drink while I’m doing work because it will distract me. On the other hand, it could be very enjoyable while I’m reading or watching Pride and Prejudice. It definitely is enjoyable when I’m reading other books and watching movies. While on vacation with a few friends over Memorial Day weekend, we consumed numerous pots of the stuff. It has a good amount of caffeine and a great taste.

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I’m also (probably unsurprisingly) a fan of the Lizzy Bennet tea from Adagio. It has a quirky flavor to it, and I love it. It’s a warm, playful flavor created by a mix of black tea, spices, and blackberries. It’s not too sweet, but it is warm and pleasant. It’s a comfortable tea. This was also consumed over Memorial Day but not as much as Darcy.

Mood

I like my tea to match my mood. If I’m in a calm mood, I’m going to be looking for something light and soothing. This, for example, is a great time for mint tea. I also find peach tea soothing, but I suspect that’s a matter of personal taste. If I’m in a playful mood, I’m going to want something that meets me where I am. This is when I’m going to want Lizzy Bennet. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, is great for waking me up. It has high caffeine content, and the flavors don’t overwhelm me.

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Overall, I want a flavor that matches my mood. I want my tea drinking experience to complement my emotions and improve them. I don’t want drinking tea to feel like work. I want to enjoy it. So whether that’s mint or peach or black, I’ll take it. I might want it hot; I might want it iced. Regardless of the temperature outside or the temperature of my tea, once I’m done with my morning coffee, it’s pretty safe bet that you’re going to find me drinking tea.