Who Do You Think You Are?

There is this scene in the Mighty Ducks (D2, let’s be real) that gets me EVERY TIME. It’s the championship and they’re losing. Point after point is being taken from them by a “bigger and stronger” team. They can feel themselves getting weaker. All they can see is their disadvantage, their insignificance in comparison to the impressive players before them. Why did they ever think they could beat this team?

Why did they allow themselves to hope when their hope seems to be the very cause of their pain?

—-

Does this feeling sound familiar? In so many ways it hits too close to home for me. There are plenty of times that I’ve allowed my hope to bubble over, only to be disappointed. Like trying out for the volleyball team in middle school… or the basketball team in middle school… Like the time I didn’t get in the sorority I set my heart on, or the time I thought I’d met “the one”, as cheesy as that sounds. After all the letdowns, I beat myself up for being hopeful. And whenever something new comes around to hope in… I’m hesitant.

“Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.”

I read this quote the other day and thought “YES. C.S. Lewis GETS it.” That’s what I’ve done and that’s what I’m doing. I’m fighting against hope. Why? Because I’m sacred. Because I don’t want to feel pain. Because I don’t trust that our Lord wants good things for me.

I think this is a battle we all fight in one way or another. But today I felt like I need to remind you that it is a battle the Lord has already fought and won for us. Jesus on the cross reminds us of this truth. His wounds were painful. But it was pain that lead us to the resurrection, pain that lead us to love. Pain is part of our story.

So, if we are bound to feel pain, then how do we keep moving forward? We must remember who we are. We are sons and daughters of a Father who truly, deeply loves us and indeed, DOES desire good things for us! He is a father who aches when we ache, but who rejoices when we continue to hope in Him even when things seem hopeless, insignificant, and even disappointing.

Hope is never something to be ashamed of. Beauty is always born from hope, no matter the outcome.

—-

The buzzer sounds and it’s half time for the Ducks. They begrudgingly make their way to the locker room where their coach reminds them who they are.

“You! Who are you?!”

“Charlie Conway.”

“From where?”

“Minneapolis, Minnesota!”

All from seemingly insignificant towns, yet all amazing young men and women with a million reasons to hope.

The Ducks end up winning and the credits roll and life seems perfect. However, I have complete faith that had things not worked out in their favor they wouldn’t for a second have doubted their hope because they’ve been reminded who they are.

joshua-newton-319090 (1)

Advertisements

Fr. “What A Waste”

He was normal. He was so genuine. He was charismatic and kind. He looked you in the eyes when he spoke, and he made a true effort to listen.

No, I didn’t have a crush but had I met him in any other context, without the collar, without the “this is our seminarian friend, Jim” introduction, I would have pinned him as an amazing man that any girl would be lucky to marry. I would have pinned him as an outstanding future father. So how was he so peaceful about the priesthood? Those two things, husband and father, didn’t equal priest in my mind.

I met Jim right after my return to the Catholic Church. I was full of questions, and there seemed to be a surprise for me around every corner of the faith. From the sacraments to adoration (whatever that was), from religious sisters to the priesthood, I was quickly discovering the richness of the Catholic faith. I felt like I was finally seeing beauty for the first time in my life and I was completely dumbfounded.

Somehow, the last semester of my senior year at UNL, I found myself in Rome on the trip of a lifetime. As if I wasn’t already overwhelmed at the vast history of the Church, now it was physically in front of me. I could actually touch it. St. Peter’s, the catacombs, St. Paul’s, the list was never ending. I even found myself at the installation mass of Pope Francis. Everything was falling into place.

One night, we decided to stop by a pub to meet up with a few Lincoln priests who were studying in Rome. The thought of drinking with priests was absolutely foreign to me, so it’s a good thing we were in a different country, I suppose.

We all sat down, started introductions, and that’s when I met Jim. I was taken off guard for a second because this guy looked as if he were my age. Up until this point, I had never really met a seminarian… and to be honest, I was confused. Of course he was my age. That makes perfect sense. All priests were young once, Emily!

But 22. Wow. And normal. Wow. And funny. Wow.

Ha. Clearly at the time, to me, all priests were older and, well, priests. They were kind, trustworthy, and put together. Meeting Father Holdren, the assistant chaplain at UNL, marked the beginning of my “they must be normal” suspicion, but I wasn’t quite sold yet. He was older, and therefore wiser.

But meeting Jim stumped me. He seemed like a normal boy, with a deep trust that the Lord was calling him to something “normal boys” don’t seem to be doing nowadays. It was completely counter-cultural for me. I asked him how he knew God was calling him to the priesthood and his answer was simple.

“It’s kinda like that feeling you get when you’ve dated someone for a really long time. You aren’t questioning marriage, it just becomes evident that that’s what’s meant to be. No words spoken.”

It wasn’t a long meeting, probably an hour or two. But I felt as if I had a new friend. I knew I wasn’t going to see him again for a very long time, but something about his peace and the way he spoke about what God was calling him to, stuck with me. He didn’t pretend to be fearless or overly confident, he was just at peace with where the Lord had him. I thought then, that I would never forget that meeting and I haven’t.

As time moved on and I dove deeper into the Catholic faith, I learned about a term used by certain Catholic girls. “Father What a Waste”. I asked for clarification. What did that even mean? They gladly gave it.

“It means that there are certain priests that we think are attractive, and/or would have made amazing husbands and fathers. What a waste that they are priests.”

Something about the term rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn’t explain why yet. Now, almost five years later, I can.

The “Father What a Wastes” of the world, are exactly who the church needs. The fact that they would have been amazing fathers and husbands is exactly why they are flipping amazing priests. They understand love, they understand sacrifice, they understand trust and peace. They are not priests because they had nothing else to do with their lives. They are not priests because they couldn’t get a girlfriend and this was the next best thing.

They are priests because Jesus Christ was a priest and Jesus has personally called them to follow Him in this way. And what a DANG GIFT that we have men who are willing to give all of themselves, all of their time, all of their energy, all of their love not to a family at home, but to their family sitting in the pews. Their family that might not even know what it’s like to have a loving father.

No, they are not a waste in the least. They are Fathers, and good fathers are never a waste.

At the beginning of this month, I spent New Years Eve in Lincoln, NE, for old times sake. I was reminiscing about my life and all the ways in which I’ve grown, but more overwhelmed by all the ways in which I still needed to grow. I was lacking trust and I could feel it.

The morning after NYE, I decided to go to the 8am Sunday mass. Weird. But I’m weird, so it’s fine. I went to my favorite church in all of Lincoln, St. Teresa’s. It’s small and worn in, and I love it. As I’m sitting there praying for trust, we were told to rise for mass to begin. As I stood up and turned my head to see who was celebrating the mass, God answered my prayer almost instantly.

It was Jim, Father Jim, walking toward the altar.

I burst into tears! What the heck?! I don’t even know him that well, but it was probably one the most beautiful moments I’ve had in a very long time. There he was, five years later. I had heard that he had just been ordained but had yet to see him. I must have looked like a dang weirdo smile crying at the beginning of a less than crowded 8am mass the day after New Years Eve. But I am so grateful to have been given a glimpse of what is to come in this man’s priesthood. His trust that day in Rome flooded back and I left that church with complete peace.

We must trust where He has us.

What a gift the priesthood has been for me in my own life. They used to terrify me, and now I have 18 priests in my phone. WHO AM I!? But they are friends.

They are Fathers. Not wasting their lives. Changing lives.

maxresdefault

Trust Fall

I trust fall. Crisp air that facilitates deep breaths and profound pauses. Trees changing colors right before your eyes, supporting the notion that seeing really is believing. And pumpkin everything, proving that if you build it (cookies, muffins, lattes, candles, cute baby costumes, etc.) they will come. I trust fall because in the midst of change, the #basics remain the same.

I’ve been praying about trust. How does one “trust”? I can say with complete confidence that I trust in God. I trust in His plan and I trust where He has me in my life. I trust Him.

I continued to pray. What’s the deal then? Why do I worry so much? Why do I constantly question my choices? Why is it so hard for me to make choices? Why is it so hard for me to fall into the arms of those who love me?

I realized that the trust I desire is a verb, not just a noun. Ha. It’s an action word. It involves taking a step and believing that if you fall and bruise your knee, you’ll still be okay. Heck, you might even learn a thing or two about walking at such a fast pace. I have to stop saying that I trust and start demonstrating it.

Easier said than done, right? How? How do I demonstrate such an important virtue and really mean it? Back to the drawing board… prayer. (I pray a lot, but I wouldn’t describe it as weird. I’d describe it as a conversation with one wiser than myself.) I started praying about areas in my life where I have demonstrated trust. I prayed about my family, and how even though we drive each other crazy sometimes, we have a deep love and a deep trust. A trust that only comes from countless Christmas mornings, the birthdays and the deaths of many a dog, my Mexican grandma’s heartfelt rosaries, and my Scottish grandma’s grasshopper pie traditions. What was so beautiful and life giving about those moments? What was it about them that built such a solid foundation for trust?

Then I prayed about my many friendships over the years and how these brothers and sisters from other misters have deeply impacted my life. From play practice to bible study, I’ve formed such trust and love for those who share these memories with me. So what was it?

Trust is an action. It’s an action. THINK EMILY. And then out of nowhere, I saw myself in 6th grade again at that crazy cool outdoor education camp with the rope courses and such. I think you know the place. And I saw 6th grade Emily climb up to the platform where the “trust fall” happens. It was my turn and there was so much to remember! The first thing to remember was that as I turned my back to face away from the group they were, indeed, going to catch me. They were going to break my fall. Second thing to remember was that I couldn’t squirm. I couldn’t second guess myself. Because it was precisely in trying to “save myself” that I would “sabotage myself”. Saint John Paul II said that it is in giving that we receive. I needed to give over control in order to receive their love.

Emily. Close your eyes. Trust that they are there to catch you. And push off of the platform without fear. Don’t squirm. Be still.

And BOOM. That was it. I had to be still. That was true of all of my memories of trusting and truly loving. It’s comical, actually. Yes I am saying that trusting is moving forward, and it’s also being still within the movement. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t. I had to take a step before it was possible to be still. We have to be moving before we can demonstrate the trust to be still amidst all of the motion and change. 6th grade Emily had to let herself fall before she could tell herself to be still in the midst of it. I had to run out to the tree on Christmas morning before I could be still in the beauty of those moments with my family. It is in those pensive pauses that we allow ourselves to be grateful for and confident in the steps we have taken. And through that gratitude and confidence, trust is born.

I’ve learned that I need to take more steps. I’ve also learned that I need to take more time to be still. And based on the beauty of this broken life, that sounds about right.

Trust God. Trust yourself. Trust fall (the season and the life changing 6th grade exercise).

“He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand; and if only the will to walk is really there, he is pleased even with their stumbles.”

C.S. Lewis

14448932_1217326698340627_5432906227698509941_n

Did I Make The Wrong Decision?

Beginnings bring question marks.

“Is this going to be worth it?”

“Should I read the introduction or just skip to chapter one?”

“In sickness and in health, till death do you part?”

“Am I where I need to be?”

I’ve recently moved to Colorado, after living for two years in NYC. Last week, I found myself on a twisting road, with mountains on either side of me, and a steering wheel in my hands. Time has replaced the skyscrapers and subway systems of my past. It’s somewhat poetic, actually.

As I drove, I thought about the question marks.

“How the heck did I get here?”

“What does this year have in store?”

“Is it illegal to be driving 20 miles under the speed limit…?”

“Where am I actually going? Which direction?”

“Where am I going?” If I had a nickel for every time I asked that question. It’s an important question because the directions you’re taking directly correlate to where you end up. So I guess the real question is, where do you want to end up? What’s your end goal?

Well on this morning, my end goal was to get to the office on time. I had plugged the address into my Google Maps and was letting British Siri lead me to my destination. I had been to the office once before with a friend so I was somewhat familiar with the roads, but not enough to do it alone, I thought.

I was at the final leg of the drive as I approached a fork in the road. As I was getting closer to it, I knew I could take it from there. All I had to do was turn left. Done. Easy. But then the British lady inside my iPhone announced, “In a quaaarter of a miiiile, turnnn RIIIGHT.”

Wait what.

But I know I need to go left.

“Turnn RIIIGHT.”

Nope, I think that’s wrong.

“Turnnn RIIIIGHT.”

I am positive that I turn left. I am absolutely positive.

“RIIIIIIGHT”

….

It was an insignificant moment in my life that completely stood out. I went against what I knew to be true and I turned right. I listened to the crazy British woman, who actually isn’t a real woman! I second guessed myself and let the fear of turning the wrong way rule my decision.

And in this story I literally, not figuratively, turned the wrong way. And I knew the second I did it. The map started to reroute me, and I just couldn’t believe I let the voice of an iPhone overpower my own. (*Insert unnecessary, yet extremely truthful, comment on the impacts of social media, here…*)

What’s funny about this whole situation is that as I was turning around and getting back on track, I felt God present in the whole thing. An insignificant mistake lead to a profound reflection.

How often I let outside voices influence what I know to be true in my heart. It’s so easy for us to second-guess our peace, our hope, our worth, our promises, His promises, our life as a whole.

I’m a Catholic missionary. That’s kinda weird, guys. I have let the strange glances, the “When are you going to get a real job”s, and the sympathetic looks make me question the direction I have taken. But I have found a truth that has transformed my life, and there is nothing weird about coming alive. Where am I going? What’s my end goal? I believe it to be heaven and I am happy with persevering in that direction.

I’m an actress. That’s also kinda weird, guys. And I have let the “No you’re not.”s and the “Why have you stopped doing what you love?”s make me question if I am living out the call to be an artist that I know is within me. But there is art in my heart that is everlasting and it flows out of me, no matter what I do.

I’m a single 26-year-old. It’s not weird, it’s a gift. But there have been times when I let the “Sooo do you have a boyfriend yet?!”s, and the “Time is flying by”s make me question my worth and the twists and turns I have made. And then I remember that that is flat out stupid. Woo! Your worth is indeed not dependent upon whether or not you have a significant other. And if you live in the expectation that one person is going to be responsible for your worth, you are bound to be unsatisfied and deeply hurt because no human is capable of such high demands. You are worth more than human love. BOOM. WOO! Once I discovered that truth, being patient has been full of peace because, shoot guys, we are loved no matter what the heck happens. PTL.

Long story short (too late), trust where you are. Trust what God is giving you at all times, even amidst the right turns and the wrong ones. He is using them all.

fork-in-the-road

 

 

 

 

Let Yourself Love

I book it out the door, glide past the Bleecker St. hipsters, look at my watch and see that I’m a little behind on my “be there an hour early” plan. It’s NYU graduation day and I need to get a good spot to see my girls throw their caps!

I run down the stairs into the subway, just in time for the B train doors to open. I am instantly surrounded. Good ol’ New York City. Never a dull moment or an open spot. I squeeze my way to the center of the car desperately looking for a short person rail to hold on to. By this point I’ve learned that if I’m left holding on to the top rail, I’m donezo.

Just as I’m ready to give up and try the surf stance, a spot opens! YES. I knew today was going to be good day! I plop down and plan to enjoy the 20 minute ride to Rockefeller Center.

As I begin to survey my surroundings, something sparkly catches my eye. The stranger sitting next to me is sporting giant fake nails, with white french tips and lots of sparkle. My first thought is, “Those are bold, impressive, and tons of fun. This girl is rockin and livin life on the edge.”

Funny enough, I turn to look at their owner and I see the cutest old lady in all of the land. She must have been at least 80 years old, snow white hair, and a cute (“Up” like) husband to match. Whatever cool points I had given her before, have now skyrocketed. She gave off this gentle, yet crazy fun vibe and all I could do was smile!

As I examined the whole picture, I knew I needed to give an honest compliment! She was truly a piece of New York pie! I looked at her nails, then to her face, then back to her nails. It was strange, I was so full of appreciation for this woman without really knowing anything about her or her story. Not because she had dauntless nails or because she had won the cutest couple award in my mind, but because God placed her next to me and allowed me to sit still enough to see her beauty, her truth, and her goodness. It was a Holy Spirit moment because I felt as if I knew her, as if she were a friend.

But isn’t it funny how after we have those moments of clarity, we are almost always hit with fear?

I started to second guess myself. “Emily, you’re so dang weird. Don’t say anything! You’ll just freak her out. She really doesn’t need to hear your opinion. She might even take it offensively!” So in that moment of fear, I decided to keep my mouth shut.

Something I learned over and over again this year… Don’t act out of fear. Fear is not of God.

Right as I decided to forgo her compliment, I KID YOU NOT, she turned to her husband, put her hands out in front of her, and with a thick Brooklyn accent laced with pure defeat said, “No one noticed.

My heart sank as she went on, “I guess no one liked them… No one said anything! Maybe I need to get a brighter color next time? What’s wrong with them, Bob? No one noticed.”

LIES, DEAR, SWEET LADY. LIES!  I noticed!! By this point, nearly all of me had sank to the ground. I can’t believe I didn’t say something. An amazing opportunity to brighten this woman’s day… MISSED. Emily! What in the actual heck!?!

I think this happens to us all, time and time again. No, I’m not saying everyone misses the perfect moment to compliment nails, but we often miss opportunities to lift others up. There is so much we could be speaking truly and beautifully about. We must fight the fear of looking foolish! There is nothing foolish about letting yourself act out of selfless love.

As the subway rolled into Rockefeller Center, I decided that I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass me by. It’s never too late to love, if even in the smallest of ways.

“Your nails are BEAUTIFUL, ma’am! Just brilliant!”, I said as I awkwardly stumbled out. And her smile in that moment was an NYC face that I’ll never, ever, forget.

img_90173

 

 

I’ve Been Lying To You

 

Hello. It’s me. (I had to.) My name is Emily and I’m a FOCUS missionary at New York University. I live in Manhattan and I’m constantly on the go, praising the Lawd, working with students, meeting with my team, and maybe sometimes I sleep.

I want you to think that I have it all together.

I want you to think that I’m in love with every minute of my life.

I want you to think that I pray at every free moment.

I want you to think that I read 24/7.

I want you to think that even if I mess up, I hop right back up on my feet.

I want to you think that my heart is totally full, and not broken at all.

I want you to think that I’m confident in all things that make me, “me”.

I want you to think that I’m always happy. Always.

What I don’t want you to know is that I’m a SCATTER BRAIN that only dreeeeams of one day “having it all together.”

I don’t want you to know that sometimes I actually DON’T love my life, in fact there are moments when all I want to do is hide in a box and wait till I’m magically married with kids in a home with a white picket fence. Because, then, life will be easier…. Riiiiiight…

I don’t want you to know that prayer can be a struggle and desolation is REAL. (Recently, Jesus has loved just looking at me. That’s all. Juuuuuust looking. Which is beautiful, but difficult when all you want is for Him to speak DIRECTLY into your life problems and future decisions… Oh hey there, Faith and Trust! Nice to meet you.)

I don’t want you to know that I get about halfway through every book I’m handed and then I get distracted and want to move on to the next one. I have about 2,589,734,229 books left on my “to read” list and they are all sitting on my book self, where I pretend like I’ve finished them.

I don’t want you to know that, often, when I mess up, I throw myself a pity party… then I complain, then I’m extremely hard on myself, and then my God given friends whip me into shape and point me back to Christ. And THEN I stand back up.

I don’t want you to know that my heart is worn down from waiting. And sometimes, despite all of the beautiful graces that the Lord has given me, it still hurts.

I don’t want you to know that sometimes I look in the mirror and wish my dang cheeks weren’t so round. And that I weighed a little less. And that my eye color was a little more exciting.

What I don’t want you to know is that sometimes I’m unhappy.

I feel like recently I’ve been sucked into this world where everything needs to be perfect and successful, comfortable and confident. “If it doesn’t make you feel good, GET RID OF IT.” “If you’re feeling any type of heartache, YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING WRONG.” “If you’re lost, SHOOT, give up now!”

So I post happy pictures on Facebook, and you post happy pictures on Facebook, and we all compare the “public bests” with our “inner worsts” and are left feeling alone.

LAME. SAUCE. (Yes, I just said lame sauce.)

Yes, there is always a place for beauty and joy! My GOSH yes! Post dem pics! But Pain, insecurity, heartache, suffering? These are exactly where we are deeply united. It’s freeing to know that life is hard sometimes, and we won’t be able to fully understand why. But we WILL be able to find peace in the fact that we are not alone. We are never alone. And that we are loved, no matter the color of our eyes, or how round our cheeks are.

I don’t have it all together.

And that’s okay.

God does.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” -Thomas Merton

emily 6

You and I

I remember standing in a sea of little, beautiful Haitian girls. All of them reaching and tugging and grasping at us, as we prepared to help lead them in fun games, arts and crafts, and prayer. I remember standing there and feeling completely overwhelmed at the amount of love these girls had to give. These waves of love happened so quickly. There were so many little voices calling out in French and arms pulling me back and forth, that for a moment I felt completely lost. I didn’t understand. I was a stranger. Could someone this little love so boldly?

After a moment of feeling lost in the language and commotion, a little girl tugged on my hand and pulled me down to her level. “What is your name?” she asked, in perfect English. When I looked her in the eyes…I cannot express the amount of beauty I saw. She truly hit me like a ray of sunshine. In an instant I felt as if I knew her, as if I’d known her forever.

I answered, “Emily.” When she repeated it, with such awe and excitement, it was like hearing my name for the first time. And when she smiled at me, I had never felt so truly loved. It was like she knew me, as well. And all the craziness around me was no longer overwhelming, but made perfect sense. The beauty and peace of that personal encounter with that little one would not have been as powerful without it.

She kept popping up everywhere, and every time I caught a glimpse of her I felt that same peace, and this honest desire to just love her and to let her love me. I saw Christ so clearly in her. So clearly.

Towards the end of the week, she gave me a drawing she had made. It had two hearts and two French words within them. With the help of a good friend, I learned that the words meant, “You and I.” She pointed to my heart and then back to hers.

I will never forget that little girl and the way in which she loved me. We never spoke a word to each other, yet her love surpassed so much of what I thought love needed to be. I thought love needed to be understood, but she knew a love beyond all understanding. She knew Christ’s love and she let that love flow from her heart so freely.

Lately, I’ve been at a loss for words. I feel like I’m in that sea of Haitian girls again and I’m overwhelmed with love and completely lost at what the Lord is doing, all at the same time. There are waves of unexplainable grace, waves of deep suffering, and waves of profound joy. I want to yell, but I honestly have no clue what will come out of my mouth, “Help!” or “Thank you!” Or maybe both? Probably both. I think it’s easy for all of us to be lost at sea every once and a while. But it’s important to remember that there is always a little Christ tugging at our hand, reminding us who we are. And that we are not alone.

I pray to be like that little girl.

It was hard to love in Haiti. But this seven year old loved anyway, she loved through her hardships. She loved despite the darkness.

As of late, it seems to be hard to love throughout the world.

That is why we must not love like “everything is bubbles and daisies and popcorn and easy!” Though I do love popcorn, I think we need to make like Mother Teresa and love until it hurts, because that is where love becomes real. That is where love is beyond all understanding.

I think we need to tug on more hands, to draw more hearts, and to say more names. We need to live in gratitude for the storming sea and in thanksgiving for the opportunity to be pulled down and embraced by Christ in the midst of it all.

g4_j2RAWhHOgBaP-Dnh91e_PiiSUq9KqmkvC6le-bhA